Some unsuspecting scuba divers found what is now the largest discovery of its kind in Israel — a glittery trove of 2,000 gold coins exposed during recent winter storms.
The divers, members of a diving club, were scuba diving in the ancient harbor of Caesarea National Park off Israel’s Mediterranean coast when they spotted what looked like a gold coin from a game, the Israel Antiquities Authority said. It didn’t take them long to figure out this was the real thing.
The treasure finders immediately showed their discovery to the club director, who turned around and notified the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the IAA said. Divers with the IAA worked with the club members, and using a metal detector, discovered the trove.
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IAA expert numismaticist Robert Cole said, “The coins are in an excellent state of preservation, and despite the fact they were at the bottom of the sea for about a thousand years, they did not require any cleaning or conservation intervention from the metallurgical laboratory.”
Winter storms and natural erosion processes often uncover artifacts, but in some cases, they sweep them out to sea. Dr. Beverly Goodman, a marine geoarchaeologist, has been working in Caesarea, uncovering archaeological gems in the Mediterranean and mapping the seafloor. After a major winter storm temporarily shut down the national park in 2010, 80 percent of what she discovered was decimated or washed out to sea, Israel21c said.
After bad luck such as this, the coins were a welcome discovery. The Caeserea Development Company and Nature and Parks Authority said, “There is no doubt that the discovery of the impressive treasure highlights the uniqueness of Caesarea as an ancient port city with rich history and cultural heritage. After 2,000 years it is still capable of captivating its many visitors, of continuing to innovate and surprise again when other parts of its mysterious past are revealed in the ground and in the sea,” the IAA reported.
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According to the IAA, the coins range in age from the second half of the ninth century C.E. to 1036 C.E.
Caesarea is a city with a long and colorful history. It was built by King Herod between 22-10 BCE and was named after emperor Augustus Caesar. The city thrived as a sophisticated Roman port, says Caesarea.com. Caesarea was a major port and was built on land to protect it from major storms and strong waves.
The divers who made the record-breaking discovery were hailed as ‘model citizens,’ by the IAA for reporting the find instead of taking any of it home.