An Israeli diving club struck gold on a recent expedition off the Mediterranean city of Caesarea, finding a priceless trove of coins dating back more than 1,000 years. The stash was discovered on the seabed that was once home to ancient Roman-era port city Caesarea, considered one of the flagship archaeological sites of Israel. Harsh winter storms have pounded the coastline, churning up the ocean floor and sweeping back layers of sediment to expose the ancient treasure.
The extraordinary find happened by chance. Divers were exploring the ancient harbor when they noticed the gold, thinking at first it was a toy or modern game piece. Once they realized it was a metal coin, they collected several more and quickly surfaced to tell their dive club director. Experts from the Antiquities Authority (IAA) came to the site, where they uncovered almost 2,000 gold coins in different denominations issued by the Fatimid Caliphate, which ruled much of the Middle East and North Africa from 909 to 1171.
The IAA issued a statement calling the nearly 20lb haul “the largest treasure of gold coins discovered in Israel”. IAA spokeswoman Yoli Schwartz told AFP the find was “so valuable that its priceless,” adding the coins were now the property of the state, and that there was no finder’s fee.
Kobi Sharvit, director of the IAA marine archaeology unit, said further excavations would be conducted to shed more light on the origin of the treasure. “There is probably a shipwreck there of an official treasury boat which was on its way to the central government in Egypt with taxes that had been collected,” said Sharvit, “Perhaps the treasure of coins was meant to pay the salaries of the Fatimid military garrison which was stationed in Caesarea and protected the city.” Another theory is that the treasure belonged to a large merchant ship that traded between Mediterranean ports.
IAA said the coins did not need any special handling, as that they had been “naturally cleaned” by the sea.
Global warming makes for fierce winter storms that will ultimately destroy vulnerable coastal developments. Watching incremental changes to local weather is the meteorological equivalent of movie previews. While Mother Nature tosses us some teasers, we can presage the blockbuster feature film.
Work to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Act to realize change on a larger scale. But ’til then enjoy the silver linings. In this case, archaeological “digs” caused by intense wave action that unearth a literal pot of gold.
Image of the largest hoard of gold coins found in Israel from Clara Amit/Israeli Antiquities Authority