Just last month a couple divers experienced the surprise of a lifetime. The deep-sea adventurers stumbled upon a seabed of wealth, but did not fully realize it yet. The divers discovered a few artifacts and then chose to notify the Israel Antiquities Authority about their accidental discovery of treasure. A more extensive dive revealed that coins, bronze statues, iron anchors, and other ancient artifacts were buried at the site of a shipwreck off the ancient Israeli port Caesarea. If you are interested in seeing some of these artifacts then check out the video released by the Israel Antiquities Authority Official Channel on YouTube that displays pieces found at the wreck. It has since been estimated that the cargo shipwreck site is 1,600 years old.
It is believed that the ship was sailing from the Roman Empire. In fact, 44 pounds of coins with emperor Constantine’s face on the surface were discovered at the wreck site. Constantine ruled the Western Roman Empire between 312 to 314 A.D. This discovery has been quite remarkable and has included the following items:
- A bronze lamp depicting the image of the sun god Sol
- Statue of moon goddess Luna
- Animal figurines
- Bronze faucet fashioned in the style of a boar
- Pieces of large water jugs
- Metal sculptures
The bronze sculptures have been a particularly intriguing find because during the time period that this ship was at sea, bronze sculptures were often recycled. The bronze sculptures were often melted down then cast into a new sculpture. For this reason, the modern world has less bronze sculptures than stone sculptures from antiquity. Also, it is more common to find the bronze sculptures at sea because these sculptures never had the opportunity to reach their “recycled fate”.
The shipwreck site did not sit too far from where some divers last year discovered thousands of gold Fatimid coins. The two back-to-back discoveries may imply that there is more treasure along this route. Caesarea Maritima was a major transporting hub in Roman times, with many ships traveling in and out of its harbor. Therefore, it can be expected that some tragedies on route to the harbor may have occurred and that more sunken treasure lies on a nearby ocean floor. There is hope that more shipwreck sites that have been buried since antiquity will be revealed as this area becomes more filled with divers. This is certainly not the first accidental find by civilians. The following is a list of other unexpected artifact discoveries:
- The Cuerdale Treasures discovered by workmen in England in 1840
- The Hoxne Hoard detected by a farmer in 1992
- The Staffordshire Hoard spotted in 2009 by a man and his metal detector
- The Panagyurishte Treasure found in 1949 by diggers in Bulgaria
This is just to recall upon a few, as the list goes on.
Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, is quite pleased with the two divers, Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra’anan. Since the divers came forth willing with their discovery, the artifacts will now be viewable to the public. Sharvit said Feinstein and Ra’anan were behaving as good citizens. The two divers will receive a certificate of appreciation and a special tour around the storerooms of the treasures.