An amazing discovery by a pair of divers in the ancient port of Caesarea is being called one of the largest troves of Roman-era treasure to be found in Israel. The beautiful sculptures, ancient coins and marine artifacts were found in the Caesarea National Park.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced the finds on May 16, 2016 saying the cargo haul dating back 1,600 years includes a figurine of the moon goddess Luna, a bronze lamp decorated with the image of the sun god Sol, a figurine of Dionysus, the god of wine, and an ancient balance scale.

A figurine of Dionysus, the god of wine. Photo courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
A figurine of Dionysus, the god of wine. Photo courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

“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 Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Dror Planer, deputy director of the unit.

The IAA authority said that a preliminary study of the iron anchors suggests there was an attempt to stop the drifting vessel before it reached shore by casting anchors into the sea.

“A marine assemblage such as this has not been found in Israel in the past 30 years. Metal statues are rare archaeological finds because they were always melted down and recycled in antiquity. When we find bronze artifacts it usually occurs at sea. Because these statues were wrecked together with the ship, they sank in the water and were thus ‘saved’ from the recycling process,” said Sharvit and Planer.

Exemplary citizenship: Divers Ran Feinstein (right) and Ofer Ra‘anan after the discovery. Photo courtesy of the Old Caesarea Diving Center
Exemplary citizenship: Divers Ran Feinstein (right) and Ofer Ra‘anan after the discovery. Photo courtesy of the Old Caesarea Diving Center

The two divers to find the haul, Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra’anan of Ra’anana, contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority and reported the discovery as soon as they emerged from the water. They were awarded with a Certificate of Appreciation.

“In recent years we have witnessed many random discoveries in the harbor at Caesarea. These finds are the result of two major factors: a lack of sand on the seabed causing the exposure of ancient artifacts, and an increase in the number of divers at the site. In this particular instance, the divers demonstrated good citizenship and are deserving of praise. They will be awarded a certificate of appreciation and invited to tour the storerooms of the National Treasures. By reporting the discovery of the marine assemblage to the Israel Antiquities Authority they have made it possible for all of us to enjoy these spectacular remains from antiquity,” said Sharvit.

Lumps of coins that were discovered at sea, weighing a total of c. 20 kilograms. Photo by Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
Lumps of coins that were discovered at sea, weighing a total of c. 20 kilograms. Photo by Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
A figurine of the moon goddess Luna. Photo by Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
A figurine of the moon goddess Luna. Photo by Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority