History

Coins, Sculptures Found at Ancient Israel Wreck

The discovery is the the largest assemblage of marine artifacts recovered in the country during the past 30 years.

A treasure trove of bronze statues and coins bearing the images of Roman emperors has emerged from the ancient harbor of Caesarea in Israel.

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The discovery, hailed as the largest assemblage of marine artifacts recovered in the country during the past 30 years, was initially made by two divers, Ran Feinstein (right) and Ofer Ra'anan. They stumbled across the remains of a large merchant ship that sank during the Late Roman period some 1,600 years ago.

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Found in an amazing state of preservation, the bronze statues include a figurine of the Roman moon goddess Luna (left) and a bronze lamp decorated with the image of the sun god Sol.

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This lamp has the shape of the head of an African slave.

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This is a figurine of Dionysus, the god of wine.

This is a fragment of a life-size head of a statue. According to the archaeologists, the location and distribution of the artifacts on the seabed indicate that a large merchant ship was carrying a cargo of metal slated for recycling. "Because the statues were wrecked together with the ship, they sank in the water and were thus saved from the recycling process," they said.

Among the artifacts the archaeologists found were these two metallic lumps. Surprisingly, the lumps were made of thousands of coins and shaped in the form of the pottery vessel in which they were transported. The coins bear the image of the Emperor Constantine who ruled the Western Roman Empire (312–324 A.C.) and was later known as Constantine the Great, ruler of the Roman Empire (324–337 A.C.), and of Licinius, an emperor who ruled the eastern part of the Roman Empire and was a rival of Constantine.

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The archaeologists believe the ship encountered a storm at the entrance to the harbor and drifted until it smashed into the seawall and the rocks. A preliminary study of the iron anchors suggests the crew attempted to stop the drifting vessel before it reached shore by casting anchors into the sea. However, these broke – evidence of the power of the waves and the wind surrounding the ship.

The finds are expected to go on display after they undergo conservation treatment and are studied by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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