Ancient sword discovered by a scuba diver off the coast of Israel may have been dropped in the sea by a Crusader knight 900 years ago
An ancient sword discovered by a scuba diver off the coast of Israel may have been dropped in the sea by a Crusader knight 900 years ago, researchers claim.
The 3ft long weapon was found on the Mediterranean seabed in a natural cove near the port city of Haifa, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
Despite being encrusted with marine organisms, the hilt and handle were distinctive enough for an ‘eagle-eyed’ amateur diver to notice, after undercurrents apparently shifted sands that had concealed it for almost a millennia.
The natural cover in which the sword was discovered likely served as a shelter for seafarers passing through, said Kobi Sharvit, from the IAA marine archaeology unit.
‘These conditions have attracted merchant ships down the ages, leaving behind rich archaeological finds,’ he said.
The sword, believed to be around 900 years old, will be put on display after it has been cleaned and restored to its former glory.
The sword was spotted about 650ft offshore near the city of Haifa and about 13ft deep and is in ‘remarkably good condition’, despite being over 900 years old.
Even though only its general shape can be seen, Sharvit is confident it dates back to the time of the Crusades.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars fought between 1095 and 1291, in which Christian invaders tried to claim the near East.
It was found among a range of other objects, including pottery fragments and a number of stone and metal anchors by diver Shlomi Katzin, who brought the blade to the surface and reported the find to the IAA, fearing it would be recovered if left.
‘The sword, which has been preserved in perfect condition, is a beautiful and rare find and evidently belonged to a Crusader knight,’ IAA’s Robbery Prevention Unit Inspector Nir Distelfeld told Jerusalem Post.
‘It was found encrusted with marine organisms but is apparently made of iron.
‘It is exciting to encounter such a personal object, taking you 900 years back in time to a different era, with knights, armor and swords.’
The knight crusaders were spurred on by the desire to liberate holy sites from Muslim rule, encouraged by the Catholic Church and initiated by European nations.
Waters surrounding the Carmel Coast, near where the sword was discovered, were sailed by thousands of boats between the 11th and 13th centuries.
There are many natural coves in the area that sheltered sailors, including crusading knights sailing in ships to the holy land, during a heavy storm.
‘Larger coves around which entire settlements and ancient port cities developed, such as Dor and Atlit,’ were also in the area, said Sharvit.
‘These conditions have attracted merchant ships down the ages, leaving behind rich archaeological finds. The recently recovered sword is just one such find.’
The site where the sword was found was already known to the IAA because it was used as a natural anchor point going back as far as 4,000 years ago — to the late Bronze Age.
‘Underwater surveying is dynamic,’ said Sharvit. ‘Even the smallest storm moves the sand and reveals areas on the seabed, meanwhile burying others.
‘It is therefore vitally important to report any such finds and we always try to document them in situ, in order to retrieve as much archaeological data as possible.’