A scuba diver has happened upon a 900-year-old sword off the Carmel coast, northern Israel, along with a variety of other items from the same period, shedding light on the role the area played in the Crusades.
It sometimes seems like you can't dig a hole in parts of the Middle East without finding some ancient item, but going for a swim is another matter. Nevertheless, just last Saturday Shlomi Katzin went scuba diving at an undisclosed location near his Atlit home and noticed stone and metal anchors on the seafloor, along with pottery fragments and an intact meter-long sword.
Katzin believes the currents and waves had uncovered items that had been long buried. Worried that what the waters give they might also take away, Katzin brought the sword ashore immediately, and handed it over to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) Robbery Prevention Unit, for which he received an appreciation of good citizenship. Getting to keep the weapon, let alone being suddenly made a knight of whichever country the sword originated from, does not seem to be on the agenda. Then again, the 8-year-old girl who found a medieval sword in a Swedish lake had to be satisfied with online queendom.
“The sword, which has been preserved in perfect condition, is a beautiful and rare find and evidently belonged to a Crusader knight. It was found encrusted with marine organisms, but is apparently made of iron,” said the IAA's Nir Distelfeld in a statement sent to IFLScience. “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 fact Crusader ships spent time in the area is no surprise. “The Carmel coast contains many natural coves that provided shelter for ancient ships in a storm, and larger coves around which entire settlements and ancient port cities developed, such as Dor and Atlit,” said the IAA's Kobi 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 discoveries made at the bottom of this cove show it was used as a temporary place to take shelter, not always successfully, during dangerous weather as early as 4,000 years ago.
However, even after artifacts were observed at the site in June, with the IAA monitoring it ever since, the sands have repeatedly covered and uncovered items. “Even the smallest storm moves the sand and reveals areas on the sea bed, meanwhile burying others,” said Shavit. Professional organizations lack the capacity to keep a constant eye on sites like this, making amateur divers an invaluable resource, provided like Katzin they report their finds rather than trying to steal them.
The sword indicates the Crusaders used the cove in the 12th century, with the sword likely dating from the Third Crusade. It will now be cleaned and studied for clues to narrow down its time and the origins of its owner, and then put on display at a museum.