Off the Coast of Israel, a Rare Archaeological Find



(Newser)

Imagine arriving in the Holy Land nearly 1,000 years ago, fired up to yank back the territory from Islamic rule in the name of the pope, and then … dropping your sword in the sea. That seems to have been the embarrassing scenario for one knight, whose long-lost sword has now apparently been recovered off the coast of Israel. In a statement, the nation’s Antiquities Authority reports that amateur diver Shlomi Katzin was in Mediterranean waters Saturday off the Mount Carmel coast, not far from Haifa, when he spotted a slew of ancient artifacts on the seabed, including stone and metal anchors, pieces of pottery, and one particularly eye-catching find: a 4-foot-long sword, encased in marine organisms.


The rare sword and other objects had likely been buried over the centuries, until waves and the current had recently shifted the sand and uncovered them, per the authority. Katzin didn’t want the sword to get reburied, so he retrieved it from the water and turned it in to the antiquities agency, which notes the iron sword was nearly unscathed after its long underwater rest. “It’s normal to find swords in bad condition, but this … was preserved in very good condition,” Jacob Sharvit, head of the authority’s Marine Archaeology Unit, tells the New York Times.


That preservation was due to the constant temperature of the waters in that location, with Sharvit explaining that the oxidized iron of the sword caused sea organisms to cling to it like they were adhered with glue. A Crusades expert at Royal Holloway, University of London notes that the knight who bore this sword probably lost it while fighting Muslim forces or fell into the water himself. Sharvit tells Haaretz his team doesn’t believe it to be a Muslim sword, as Muslim forces didn’t arrive by sea. In the authority’s statement, Sharvit says the area where the ship was found is rife with coves that served as shelter for ancient ships during inclement weather, where they left behind “rich archaeological finds.”


He adds that the growing popularity of water sports in recent years has led to an uptick in the recovery of such treasures. Although Israeli law requires these types of finds to be turned over, Katzin received a certificate of appreciation for good citizenship for bringing the sword to the IAA. “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,” says Nir Distelfeld, an inspector for the authority’s robbery prevention unit. The sword will be cleaned and examined, then placed on display in an Israeli museum, per Sharvit. (Read more discoveries stories.)

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