Ancient treasures recovered from two shipwrecks off Israel’s coast – video content

December 23, 2021 by TPS
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The Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Archaeology Unit conducted a survey off the coast of Caesarea and recovered treasures from two ancient shipwrecks, including hundreds of silver coins, figurines, and a gold ring engraved with the figure of the Good Shepherd, a well-known symbol of Jesus in early Christian art.

A hoard of coins from the Mamluk period discovered off the coast of Caesarea in 2021. Credit; Israel Antiquities Authority.

The artifacts from the wrecks of two ships, one from the Roman period some 1,700 years ago, and the second from the Mamluk period some 600 years ago, have been discovered in recent months near Caesarea during the underwater survey.

The ships’ cargoes and the remains of their wrecked hulls were found scattered in shallow water at a depth of about 4 meters.

Jacob Sharvit and Dror Planer, of the IAA’s Marine Archaeology Unit, said that the ships “were probably anchored nearby and were wrecked by a storm. They may have been anchored offshore after getting into difficulty, or fearing stormy weather because sailors know well that mooring in shallow, open water outside of a port is dangerous and prone to disaster.”

The treasure includes hundreds of silver and bronze Roman coins from the mid-third century CE and a large hoard of silver coins from the Mamluk period from the 14th century, a bronze figurine in the form of an eagle, symbolizing Roman rule, a figurine of a Roman pantomime in a comic mask, numerous bronze bells intended among other things to ward off evil spirits, and pottery vessels.

Multiple metal items from the hull of a wooden ship were also discovered, including dozens of large bronze nails, lead pipes from a bilge pump, and a large iron anchor broken in pieces-attesting to the force it withstood until it finally snapped, probably in the storm.

The underwater remains include rare personal effects of the shipwreck victims. Among these were a beautiful red gemstone for setting in a ring, and the carving of the gemstone shows a lyre.

Another rare find is a thick, octagonal gold ring set with a green gemstone carved with the figure of a young shepherd boy dressed in a tunic and bearing a ram or a sheep on his shoulders. The image of the “Good Shepherd” is one of the earliest and oldest images used in Christianity for symbolizing Jesus. It represents Jesus as humanity’s compassionate shepherd, extending his benevolence to his flock of believers and all mankind.

“This unique gold ring bearing the figure of the ‘Good Shepherd’ gives us, possibly, an indication of its owner, an early Christian,” the researchers explained.

The ring was discovered near the port of Caesarea, a site of great significance in the Christian tradition. Caesarea was one of the earliest centers of Christianity and housed one of the first Christian communities. Initially, only Jews belonged to this community. According to Christian tradition, the apostle Peter baptized the Roman centurion Cornelius in Caesarea.

“This was the first instance of a non-Jew being accepted into the Christian community,” says Sharvit. “From here, the Christian religion began to be disseminated across the world.”

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