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Remains from 14th century shipwreck discovered in Israel

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered the remains of two shipwrecks that foundered off the coast of Caesarea. One of the ships dates to the 14th century, while the other was from about the third century AD.

A number of fascinating artifacts were found during an underwater survey conducted by the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The ships’ cargoes and the remains of their wrecked hulls were found scattered in shallow water at a depth of about 4 metres, scattered on the seafloor.

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The marine treasure includes a large hoard of 560 silver coins dating to the fourteenth-century as well as ribbon cut like pieces of metal. A number of ancient items were also discovered, including a bronze figurine in the form of an eagle, symbolizing Roman rule; a figurine of a Roman pantomimus in a comic mask; numerous bronze bells intended among other things to ward off evil spirits; and pottery vessels. Multiple metal items from the hull of a wooden ship were also discovered, including dozens of large bronze nails, lead pipes from a bilge pump, and a large iron anchor broken in pieces-attesting to the force it withstood until it finally snapped, probably in the storm.

Nails from the hull of the wrecked ship. Photo by Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

“The ships were probably anchored nearby and were wrecked by a storm,” explains Jacob Sharvit and Dror Planer of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Marine Archaeology Unit. “They may have been anchored offshore after getting into difficulty, or fearing stormy weather, because sailors know well that mooring in shallow, open water outside of a port is dangerous and prone to disaster.”

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According to Eli Eskozido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Israel’s coasts are rich in sites and finds that are immensely important national and international cultural heritage assets. They are extremely vulnerable, which is why the Israel Antiquities Authority conducts underwater surveys to locate, monitor and salvage any antiquities. There are many kinds of sporting activities along Israel’s shores, including diving, snorkeling, open water swimming and sailing, during which antiquities are occasionally discovered. We appeal to divers: if you come across an ancient find, take a note of its underwater location, leave it in the sea and report it to us immediately. The discovery and documentation of artifacts at their original find spot has tremendous archaeological importance and sometimes even a small find leads to a great discovery.”

Top Image: Hoard of coins from the Mamluk period including cut coins. Photo Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority

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