Cave explorers in Israel have uncovered a small trove of coins and jewellery from the time of Alexander the Great that archaeologists believe was hidden by refugees during an ancient war.

The 2,300-year-old treasure was the first of its kind to be found from the period of the conqueror, said Eitan Klein of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

"The two hordes can teach us about a new phenomenon that we just now beginning to understand it about refugees who escaped into natural caves in the Galilee and that was during the time of Alexander the Great or maybe after his death when his predecessors fought one against the other and the main battle was in Israel," Klein, of the authority's Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, said.

In February, scuba divers off Israel's coast came upon an even larger find: about 2,000 gold coins from the 11th century that archaeologists hope will shed light on Muslim rule during that time.

Hikers discovered the latest horde in a narrow crevice of a stalactite cave in the Galilee region. It included two silver coins minted during Alexander's reign and several pieces of silver jewellery, including rings, bracelets and earrings. The rare cache was brought to Jerusalem where it was put on display.

Alexander the Great, ruler of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia, led a military campaign throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia. He died in Babylon, the present day Iraq, in 323BC.