The ocean is a vast, mysterious place that is still largely uncharted. Even to this day, it still surprises and amazes us with new discoveries all the time. From mystical creatures in the deepest parts of the waters to ancient, human artifacts, we are nowhere near uncovering all the secrets that our oceans harbor.
Earlier this year, a significant discovery was made in Caesarea National Park near Haifi. Two divers came across a shipwreck that had been hidden in the depths of the waters off the coast of Israel until recently, when a shift in the sea floor exposed the long-forgotten vessel. After some 1,600 years, a large collection of artifacts from the late Roman era was finally going to resurface.
Like many times before, Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ranaan were enjoying the day in familiar waters off the coast of Israel in Caesarea National Park. But this time, their swim would lead to an incredible discovery. The giant rocks in these waters are actually the remnants of walls from when this area used to be a Roman port city.
They had no idea what they were about to uncover when they first stumbled across a sculpture during their dive. “It took us a couple of seconds to understand what was going on,” Ranaan said. After passing the first artifact, they came across another sculpture and knew that there was more than meets the eye there. So, they took the second relic with them and brought it to the attention of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
The IAA was quick to respond, immediately organizing and executing a dive that uncovered a ton of artifacts and treasures. Among the find were bronze statues and coins, all of which dated back to the late Roman period.
Many of the antiquities are no longer intact, but the fragments can tell us a lot as a collective.
Some statues were easier to identify, like Luna, the goddess of the moon (the figure in the middle). Others, like the rightmost piece, remain unknown.
Some of the broken pieces may come from the same sculpture, like this hand below and the fragmented face in the picture above.
Here, we see a bronze candleholder featuring the sun god, Sol.
Up close, you can see that the sun god is wearing a solar crown.
This metal cluster is the accumulation of hundreds of ancient coins that have fused together underwater. Each of these chunks weigh approximately 20 pounds.
The coins appeared to feature Constantine, emperor of Rome from 312 to 337 C.E. This allowed archaeologists to determine the approximate time period from which the treasures derived.
The majority of the antiquities seemed to have come from the 300s, but there were also items amid the collection that date back to the 100s and 200s as well. This suggests that people back then also had an appreciation for antiques.
Every piece of artifact can provide valuable information to archaeologists and historians. This nail may not seem like much, but it could shed light on how Roman ships were designed and built during that time.
Other incredible finds have also been uncovered from this area. Back in its time, Caesarea was a booming port city and a prime destination for tourism and trade. Although it was never confirmed, it is believed that the town disintegrated into the ocean due to an earthquake.
Scholars hypothesize that this particular ship sank during a storm and remained there for the last 1,600 years.
The IAA has allowed visitors to view the artifacts and learn about the people and culture behind them. IAA’s director of marine archaeology, Jacob Sharvit, is seen below educating visitors on this fascinating topic.
Since the 1960s, the IAA has been working hard to recover and preserve as much of Caesarea as it can, both from the ocean and on land. To learn more about the IAA and their work, be sure to check out their website here.
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