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Roman coins, jewelry among shipwreck items found off Caesarea

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A number of fascinating artefacts from the wrecks of two ships that sank off the coast of Caesarea during the Roman and Mamluk periods (around 1700 and 600 years ago) have been found in recent months near Caesarea during an underwater survey by Marine Archaeology. A division of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The ships’ cargoes and the remains of their wrecked hulls were found scattered in shallow water at a depth of about 4 m, scattered on the seabed.

Bronze coins of the Roman period [Credit: Dafna Gazit,
Israel Antiquities Authority]

According to Jacob Sharvit and Dror Planer of the Maritime Archeology Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “the ships were probably anchored nearby and were wrecked by the storm. They may have anchored offshore after getting into difficulties or fearing stormy weather, because sailors know well that mooring in shallow, open water outside a port is dangerous and prone to disaster.’

Bronze statuettes of the Roman period [Credit: Dafna Gazit,
Israel Antiquities Authority]

The Maritime Hoard includes hundreds of silver and bronze Roman coins from the mid-third century AD and a large hoard of silver coins from the Mamluk period (fourteenth century; c. 560 coins, including a large number of small band-cut pieces); a bronze figure in the form of an eagle, symbolizing Roman rule; a figure of a Roman pantomime in a comic mask; numerous bronze bells intended, among other things, to scare away evil spirits; and pottery.

Bells [Credit: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority]

Several metal objects were also recovered from the wooden ship’s hull, including dozens of large bronze nails, lead pipes from a bilge pump and a large iron anchor broken into pieces, indicating the force it had withstood before it snapped, probably in a storm. .

A red gem engraved with a lyre found off the coast of Caesarea
[Credit: Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority]

Underwater remains include rare personal belongings of shipwreck victims. Among them was a beautiful red gem to be set in a “gem” ring; the gem carving shows a lyre. In Jewish tradition, the lyre is called Kinor David (“Harp of David”). According to 1 Samuel 16:23, King David played the harp for Saul (“Whenever the spirit of God came upon Saul, David took his harp and played. Then Saul was relieved; he felt better, and the evil spirit would leave him”). The biblical kinor is commonly equated with the instrument known as the “lyre of Apollo” in Greek mythology. In Greek myth, the infant Hermes made an instrument, the lyre, out of a tortoise shell on the morning of his birth. In exchange for the instrument, the music-loving Apollo agreed to make Hermes and his mother gods.

Octagonal Gold Ring with Green Gemstone and Good Shepherd Carved Figure [Credit: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority]

Another exquisite and rare find is a thick octagonal gold ring with a green gemstone, carved with the figure of a young shepherd dressed in a tunic with a ram or sheep on his shoulders. The image of the “Good Shepherd” is one of the earliest and oldest images used in Christianity to symbolize Jesus; it presents Jesus as a compassionate shepherd of mankind, showing his benevolence to his flock of believers and to all mankind. This unique gold ring with the image of the “Good Shepherd” may point to an early Christian owner.

A hoard of coins from the Mamluk period, recently discovered during a shipwreck off the coast of Caesarea [Credit: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority]

The ring was found near the port of Caesarea, a place of great importance in Christian tradition. Caesarea was one of the earliest centers of Christianity and housed one of the first Christian communities. At first, only Jews belonged to this community. It was here that the apostle Peter baptized the Roman centurion Cornelius in Caesarea (Acts 10:10). “It was the first case of a non-Jew being accepted into the Christian community,” says Sharvit. “From here the Christian religion began to spread throughout the world.”

According to Eli Escosid, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Israel’s coasts are rich with sites and finds that are extremely important national and international cultural heritage values. They are extremely vulnerable, so the Israel Antiquities Authority conducts underwater research to find, monitor and salvage any antiquities. There are many sporting activities along Israel’s coast, including diving, scuba diving, open water swimming and sailing, which occasionally turn up antiquities. To divers: If you come across an ancient find, record its underwater location, leave it at sea, and let us know immediately. Discovering and documenting artefacts at their original location is of immense archaeological importance, and sometimes even a small find leads to a big discovery.”

Source: Israel National News [December 22, 2021]

Source: https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2021/12/roman-coins-jewellery-among-shipwrecked.html

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