Called an ‘exceptional’ find by Robert Kool, head of the authority’s coin department, the Israel Antiques Authority (IAA) announced Wednesday the discovery of remnants of two shipwrecks off the Mediterranean Coast, reports The Jerusalem Post . It has been identified as a Roman-era golden ring, with an early Christian symbol for Jesus inscribed upon its gemstone. The IAA’s Marine Archaeology Unit was carrying out a routine survey off the entire coast of Israel, and were in an area right outside of the harbor of Caesarea.
A Treasure Trove Borne Out of a Storm?
“We spotted a broken metal anchor and decided to see if there was more in the area. We soon started to find many other artifacts,” says archaeologist Jacob Sharvit.
The ring was one amongst a treasure trove of third-century Roman era artifacts, including hundreds of Roman and medieval silver coins, along with a bronze eagle figurine, bells to ward off evil spirits, pottery, and a Roman pantomimus (mime) figurine in a comic mask, as per a statement by the Israel Antiques Authority.
A selection of bells was amongst other interesting artifacts recovered from the sites. (Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority)
According to the investigators of the Marine Archaeology Unit in the Ancient Authority, “The findings tell the story of two ships that crashed on their journeys, during different periods, probably when they tried to sail or find shelter from storms,” they write in a Facebook post . They’ve been dated to the Roman and royal period, i.e., 1700 (3rd century AD) and 600 years ago (14th century AD) respectively.
In Israeli history, the royal period is associated with the rule of the Mamluks, a dynasty of manumitted slave soldiers, a military caste and state that ruled Northeastern Africa and Western Arabia between the 13th and 16th centuries.
The scattered debris of the ship suggests to the researchers that at least one ship went down in a very powerful storm. This is explained in the statement, “Many metal parts belonging to a wooden ship body were discovered, including dozens of large bronze signs, lead pipes belonging to a water pump, and a large iron anchor, which was broken – a testimony to the power of the forces that worked on it until it was broken, apparently, in the storm.”