Divers discover stunning haul of Roman cargo
Two Israeli divers accidentally came across a stunning haul of ancient treasures while on a holiday weekend dive in the historic port of Caesarea including well-preserved figurines and 20kg of Roman coins.
The divers, Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra‘anan, first spotted an iron anchor sticking out of shifting sand. They quickly realised that the remains of an ancient ship were being revealed as the sands shifted. As soon as they got back on dry land they reported their find to the Israel Antiquities Authority. The divers returned to their find with a team of archaeologists.
The joint dive at the site revealed that an extensive portion of the seabed had been cleared of sand and the remains of a ship were left uncovered on the sea bottom: iron anchors, remains of wooden anchors and items that were used in the construction and running of the sailing vessel. An underwater salvage survey conducted in recent weeks with the assistance of a team of divers from the Israel Antiquities Authority and volunteers using advanced equipment discovered a stunning haul from the merchant vessel.
The ship is thought to be 1,600 years old and the find, including statues of Roman sun and moon gods, ancients lamps, and pottery, is described as the most important maritime find in the Eastern Mediterranean in the past 30 years. It appears that the ship sailed into a storm near the harbour and despite employing a number of anchors was dashed against the coastal rocks.
Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Dror Planer, deputy director of the unit, dated the ship to sometime during the Late Roman Period or 3rd-4th century CE.
'In the many marine excavations that have been carried out in Caesarea only very small number of bronze statues have been found,' said the IAA. 'Whereas in the current cargo a wealth of spectacular statues were found. The sand protected the statues; consequently, they are in an amazing state of preservation – as though they were cast yesterday rather than 1,600 years ago.'