A scuba diver has found a 900-year-old sword while swimming off the coast of Israel. The sword’s discovery suggests that the natural anchorage where it was found was also used by ships in the Crusader period.
Shlomi Katzin, a resident of Atlit, was scuba diving last weekend when he was amazed to discover historical artifacts on the sea bed, apparently uncovered by waves and undercurrents that had shifted the sand. He saw ancient stone anchors, anchors made of metal, pottery fragments, and an impressive sword with a one-meter-long blade and a hilt measuring 30 cm in length.
Fearing that the find would be stolen or buried beneath subsequent shifting of the sands, Katzin took the sword ashore. The find was reported to the Israel Antiquities Authority, and the sword was handed over to the National Treasures Department.
“The sword, which has been preserved in perfect condition, is a beautiful and rare find and evidently belonged to a Crusader knight,” explains Nir Distelfeld, Inspector for the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Robbery Prevention Unit. “It was found encrusted with marine organisms, but is apparently made of iron. It is exciting to encounter such a personal object, taking you 900 years back in time to a different era, with knights, armor and swords.”
“The Carmel coast contains many natural coves that provided shelter for ancient ships in a storm, and larger coves around which entire settlements and ancient port cities developed, such as Dor and Atlit,” adds Kobi Sharvit, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Marine Archaeology Unit. “These conditions have attracted merchant ships down the ages, leaving behind rich archaeological finds. The recently recovered sword is just one such find.”
The site where the anchors and the sword were found has been monitored by the Israel Antiquities Authority since June, when it was first discovered by Boaz Langford and Rafael Bahalul. The site’s finds are very elusive, since they appear and disappear with the movement of the sands.
“The discovery of ancient finds by swimmers and leisure divers is a growing phenomenon in recent years, with the increasing popularity of such sports,” says Sharvit. “Underwater surveying is dynamic. Even the smallest storm moves the sand and reveals areas on the sea bed, meanwhile burying others. It is therefore vitally important to report any such finds and we always try to document them in situ, in order to retrieve as much archaeological data as possible. The archaeological finds at the site show that it served as a small, temporary natural anchorage for ships seeking shelter. Identification of the various finds shows that the anchorage was used in as early as the Late Bronze Age, 4,000 years ago. The recent discovery of the sword suggests that the natural cove was also used in the Crusader period, some 900 years ago.”
Israel Antiquities Authority’s general director, Eli Escosido, praised Shlomi for coming forward with the discovery. “Every ancient artifact that is found helps us piece together the historical puzzle of the Land of Israel. Once the sword has been cleaned and researched in the Israel Antiquities Authority’s laboratories, we will ensure it is displayed to the public.”