(JNS.org) The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Monday that two divers discovered the cargo of an ancient Roman merchant ship off the coast of Caesarea, Israel, during the recent Passover holiday. The ship sank during late Roman period 1,600 years ago.
Divers Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra’anan immediately contacted the IAA after their discovery. A subsequent dive with IAA archaeologists led to the further discovery of numerous items that had been in the ship’s cargo, many of which were very well-preserved. The items include a bronze lamp depicting 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 transported.
The unique metallic lumps weigh about 44 pounds, while many of the coins themselves bear the image of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, who is known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity and make it the official religion of the empire.
“These are extremely exciting finds, which apart from their extraordinary beauty are of historical significance. The location and distribution of the ancient finds on the seabed indicate that a large merchant ship was carrying a cargo of metal slated recycling, which apparently encountered a storm at the entrance to the harbor and drifted until it smashed into the seawall and the rocks," said Jacob Sharvit, director of the IAA's Marine Archaeology Unit, and Dror Planer, the unit's deputy director.
The findings “are in an amazing state of preservation—as though they were cast yesterday rather than 1,600 years ago,” they added.