Ancient Roman treasure trove found off coast of Caesarea


A treasure trove of ancient artifacts that made their way to the bottom of the sea when a merchant ship went down off the coast of Caesarea some 1600-years ago during the Roman period was recently discovered, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday.

The Antiquities Authority called the discovery the biggest treasure uncovered in at least 30 years.

Two divers discovered the artifacts by chance while diving off the Caesarea coast just prior to Passover last month. The divers, Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra’anan from Ra’anana, immediately informed the Antiquities Authority of their discovery.

IAA divers then went to the site where the two men had discovered several artifacts, finding the remains of the ship buried beneath the sea floor.

Many bronze items kept in the ship’s hold were amazingly well-preserved: a candle decorated with a likeness of the Roman Sun god Sol, a statue of the Moon goddess Luna, a candle in the form of an African slave’s head and pieces of a vessel for carrying water.

A number of gold Roman coins were found in the same area by divers years ago.
Yaakov Sharvit, the IAA’s Marine Archaeology Unit manager and Deputy Manager Dror Pelner stated that “these are very exciting findings, which, beyond their extraordinary beauty, are of great historical importance.

According to the archaeologists “the location of the artifacts and their distribution on the sea floor suggest a big merchant ship which carried metal for reuse and likely got caught in a storm near the entry to the port and crashed against the breakwater and the rocks.”

The condition of the metal anchors found at the site of the discovery suggests that there was an attempt to deploy them in order to stop the ship from being dragged by the storm and hurled into the rocks, however the force of the waves broke the anchors.

The sand which covered the bronze statues preserved them “as if they were created yesterday, and not 1,600 years ago,” the archaeologists said.

The coins discovered in the find bear the likeness of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who ruled over the Western Roman Empire (312-324 A.D.) and would later become Constantine the Great, the ruler of the Roman Empire (324-337 A.D.).

The archaeologists said that there had been a great number of findings in Caesarea in recent years in part because of the large number of divers active in the area.  Feinstein and Ra’anan will be awarded a special citation for discovering the treasure and alerting the IAA.

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