Two divers discovered the cargo of an ancient Roman merchant ship off the coast of Caesarea, Israel. The ship sank during the late Roman period, about 1,600 years ago. The divers made their discovery during Pesach.
The divers, Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra’anan, got in touch with the Israel Antiquities Authority immediately, and the IAA’s archaeologists dove right in. Later dives led to the discovery of a trove of treasures from the ship. Many were very well-preserved. The items include a bronze lamp with the image of the sun god Sol, a figurine of the moon goddess Luna, a lamp in the image of the head of an African slave, animal statues, and two metallic lumps made from thousands of coins in the form of the pottery vessel in which they had been carried.
The unique metallic lumps weigh about 44 pounds. Many of the coins bear the image of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, who was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, and who made his new religion the empire’s own.
“These are extremely exciting finds, which apart from their extraordinary beauty are of historical significance,” the head of the IAA’s marine archeology unit, Jacob Sharvit, said. “The location and distribution of the ancient finds on the seabed indicate that a large merchant ship was carrying a cargo of metal slated for recycling, which apparently encountered a storm at the entrance to the harbor and drifted until it smashed into the seawall and the rocks.”
The findings “are in an amazing state of preservation—as though they were cast yesterday rather than 1,600 years ago,” he added.