Israeli divers discover 1,600-year-old Late-Roman marine cargo off coast of Caesarea

Israel’s Antiquity Authority display findings from two weeks ago; 20 kilo of coins, statues and much more found in diving excavations

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On Monday, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Rothschild Caesarea Foundation exhibited artifacts of an ancient treasure trove from a ship that sunk in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Caesarea.

The findings are over 1,600 years old from a sunken ship from the Late Roman period and consist mainly of marine cargo. The discovery was made two weeks ago by divers who alerted the Authority of their findings.

Additional dives and excavations took place over the past two weeks, findings including statues, iron anchors, drinking jars, a lamp and around 20 kilograms of thousands of coins bearing the image of Constantine the Great and Emperor Licinius. A “bronze lamp depicting the image of the sun god Sol, a figurine of the moon goddess Luna, a lamp in the image of the head of an African slave and fragments of three life-size bronze cast statues” have been identified thus far.

Director of the IAA’s Marine Archaeology Unit Jacob Shavit and Deputy Director Dror Planer stated on the rarity of the findings “These are extremely exciting finds, which apart from their extraordinary beauty, are of historical significance. The location and distribution of the ancient finds on the seabed indicate that a large merchant ship was carrying a cargo of metal slated recycling, which apparently encountered a storm at the entrance to the harbor and drifted until it smashed into the seawall and the rocks. In the many marine excavations that have been carried out in Caesarea only very small number of bronze statues have been found, whereas in the current cargo a wealth of spectacular statues were found that were in the city and were removed from it by way of sea. 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.”

They explained that the findings are a “result of two major factors: a lack of sand on the seabed causing the exposure of ancient artifacts, and an increase in the number of divers at the site.”