Israeli archaeologists find treasures in ancient shipwrecks

Figurines, pottery and ship parts recovered from sunken ships off Mediterranean coast

Archaeologists found several precious objects and hundreds of silver coins. AFP

The Israel Antiquities Authority on Wednesday announced the discovery of two shipwrecks off the Mediterranean coast, replete with a sunken trove of hundreds of Roman and medieval silver coins.

The wrecks, made near the ancient city of Caesarea, date to the Roman and Mameluke periods, around 1,700 and 600 years ago, respectively, archaeologists said.

They include hundreds of Roman silver and bronze coins dating to the mid-3rd century as well as more than 500 silver coins from the Middle Ages.

The ships were found during an underwater survey conducted by the IAA’s Marine Archaeology Unit over the past two months, said Jacob Sharvit, head of the unit.

An ancient sculpture recovered from one of the shipwrecks. AFP

Among the other artefacts recovered from the site near the ancient city of Caesarea were figurines, bells, ceramics and metal pieces from the ships, such as nails and a shattered iron anchor.

The IAA made its announcement days before Christmas and highlighted the discovery of a Roman gold ring, its green gemstone carved with the figure of a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders.

Robert Cole, head of the authority’s coin department, called the item “exceptional”.

The figure of the Good Shepherd is one of the earliest expressions to refer to Jesus. AFP

“On the gemstone is engraved an image of the ‘Good Shepherd’, which is really one of the earliest symbols of Christianity,” he said.

Mr Sharvit said that the Roman ship is believed to have originally come from Italy, based on the style of some of the artefacts.

He said it remained unclear whether any remnants of the wooden ships remained intact beneath the sand.

Updated: December 22nd 2021, 5:52 PM