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The Sword in the Sea: Scuba diver discovers 900-year-old Crusader sword of Israel’s Carmel coast

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The coves off the Carmel coastline are believed to have been in use by ancient ships since the Late Bronze Age, 4,000 years ago

By ILANIT CHERNICK

While scuba diving off the coast of Israel, a 900-year-old Crusader sword was the last thing Atlit resident Shlomi Katzin was expecting to find.

Katzin was scuba diving last Saturday off Israel’s Carmel coast when he found the incredible ancient artifact swimming with the fishes.
According to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), “[the sword was] apparently uncovered by waves and undercurrents that had shifted the sand. 

“He saw ancient stone anchors, anchors made of metal, pottery fragments, and an impressive sword with a one-meter-long blade and a hilt measuring 30 cm in length,” the IAA explained in a statement.

Out of concerns that the sword may get stolen or buried again beneath the shifting sand, Katzin took the sword ashore, contacting the relevant authorities – the IAA – immediately to report the finding. 

This area has been monitored since findings were made there in June but the finds can be very elusive “since they appear and disappear with the movement of the sands.”

An inspector from the IAA’s Robbery Prevention Unit,  Nir Distelfeld, said that “the sword, which has been preserved in perfect condition, is a beautiful and rare find and evidently belonged to a Crusader knight.”

“It was found encrusted with marine life but seems to be made from iron,” he pointed out. “It is exciting to encounter such a personal object, which goes back 900 years to a different era, with knights, armor and swords.” 

Commenting on the find, the IAA’s Marine Archaeology Unit director Kobi Sharvit emphasized that the Carmel coast has a lot of natural coves, which once upon a time “provided shelter for ancient ships during storms, and larger coves around which entire settlements and ancient port cities developed, such as Dor and Atlit.”

“This attracted merchant ships through the ages, who in turn left behind rich archaeological finds,” Sharvit explained. “The recently recovered sword is just one such find.” 

Describing the site, he said that it shows that the area once served “as a small, temporary natural anchorage for ships seeking shelter.” 

“Identification of the various finds shows that the anchorage site was used as early as the Late Bronze Age, 4,000 years ago,” Sharvit continued. “The recent discovery of the sword suggests that the natural cove was also used in the Crusader period, some 900 years ago.”

An ancient stone anchor found on the coastline. (Photo Credit: Shlomi Katzin)

He added that “the discovery of ancient finds by swimmers and leisure divers” has become a “growing phenomenon in recent years, with the increasing popularity of such sports.”

Sharvit stressed that underwater surveying is not an easy feat with the smallest of waves or weather conditions causing the sands to move and change.
“Even the smallest storm moves the sand and reveals areas on the sea bed, meanwhile burying others,” he said. 

IAA general director, Eli Escosido, praised Katzin for coming forward with the discovery. 

“Every ancient artifact that is found helps us piece together the historical puzzle of the Land of Israel,” he said, concluding that “once the sword has been cleaned and researched in the Israel Antiquities Authority’s laboratories, we will ensure it is displayed to the public.”

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