Crusader Hand Grenade and Bronze Knife Among Archaeological Treasures Retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea

Crusader Hand Grenade and Bronze Knife Among Archaeological Treasures Retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea

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A treasure trove of priceless artifacts, the earliest of which are 3,500 years old, were recently turned over to the state of Israel by a family that inherited them from their father who passed away.

One of the most striking gems the family had hung onto is a beautifully decorated hand grenade, of a type commonly used during the Crusader, Ayyubid and Mamluk periods.

Hand grenades filled with Greek fire (burning naphta) was a Byzantine invention that spread to the Muslim armies in the Near East.

They were filled with Greek fire and sealed so that all a soldier needed to do was throw the grenade toward the enemy to eliminate him. Characteristics that made it singular include its ability to burn on water and stick onto surfaces, extinguishable with sand, vinegar, or–bizarrely–old urine. Some historians believe it could be ignited using water.

Although the technology has changed over the centuries, the concept remains that all the soldier need to do was to hurl the grenade toward the enemy and it´s disseminate burning naphtha at impact. The hand grenades we have now are a direct descendent of these contraptions; we’ve just updated the concept by using explosives instead.

An Israel Antiquities Authority employee examining the finds.

An Israel Antiquities Authority employee examining the finds. Photographic credit: Amir Gorzalczany, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The family explained that their father, who was employed at the Hadera power station since its construction, retrieved many items from the sea while working there, which according to the family are quite ancient. The representatives of the Israel Antiquities Authority were surprised by what they found: metal objects, most of which are decorated, that apparently fell overboard from a metal merchant’s ship in the Early Islamic period.

The ancient finds that were retrieved from the sea and turned over to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The ancient finds that were retrieved from the sea and turned over to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Photographic credit: Diego Barkan, Israel Antiquities Authority.

"The finds include a toggle pin and the head of a knife from the Middle Bronze Age from more than 3,500 years ago," stated Ayala Lester, a curator with the Israel Antiquities Authority. "The other items, among them, two mortars and two pestles, fragments of candlesticks, and so on, date to the Fatimid period. The items were apparently manufactured in Syria and were brought to Israel."

A toggle pin and head of a knife that are 3,500 years old.

A toggle pin and head of a knife that are 3,500 years old. Photographic credit: Diego Barkan, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The seabed of Israel is an archeological treasure trove full of sunken harbors and shipwrecks that hides countless of artifacts.

Last May, divers announced the discovery of beautiful bronze statues, thousands of coins and other finds on the seabed dating to 5th century AD, off the Caesarea beach, which is very near the Hadera power plant.

Just a few months earlier, in February, divers discovered a lump of gold coins, also in Caesarea from the Fatimid era, about the 11th century AD. The finds are assumed to also have come from a shipwreck.

Top image: A hand grenade that is hundreds of years old which was found in the sea.  Photographic credit: Amir Gorzalczany, Israel Antiquities Authority.

By Sam Bostrom

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