Diver Discovers 900-Year-Old Crusader Sword Off Coast of Israel
A diver in Israel has discovered a rare 900-year-old Crusader sword among a collection of ancient artifacts. This massive weapon, that was once welded by a legendary Crusader knight, was found not on a historic battlefield, as those discovered to date usually are, but underwater on the seabed near a popular tourist resort in Israel.
Having been lost on the seafloor for almost 1,000 years, the iconic weapon was discovered encrusted with mollusks. Nevertheless, Nir Distelfeld, an inspector for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), said in a statement that the “Crusader sword is in perfect condition.”
The Crusader sword was discovered underwater off the coast of Israel. (Shlomi Katzin / Israel Antiquities Authority)
Underwater Haul: Discovery of “Beautiful” and “Rare” Crusader Sword
The IAA have announced that Atlit diver, Shlomi Katzin, discovered the 900-year-old Crusader sword with several pottery fragments and a spying stone, as well as stone and metal anchors. The collection of ancient devices was found off Carmel beach in the popular area of Hof HaCarmel, in the city of Haifa, situated in the northern part of Israel. Times of Israel reported the sword’s finder has been given the “outstanding citizen award” for his honesty in handing in the rare and valuable ancient relic.
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Diver Shlomi Katzin with the 900-year-old Crusader sword. (Nir Distelfeld / Israel Antiquities Authority)
Katzin found the sword while diving on Saturday in an area where “waves and undercurrents had apparently shifted sand.” The sword measures one-meter (3.28 ft) in length with a 30-centimetre (0.98 ft) hilt. With a straight, double-edged blade and a single-handed cruciform hilt this style of sword emerged from the European High Middle Ages. Nir Distelfeld said the sword is “a beautiful and rare find and evidently belonged to a Crusader knight” from one of the many military orders of European Crusaders.
Archaeological Evidence of a Brutal Time in Religious History
The area where the sword was discovered was first identified by the IAA as being of archaeological interest back in June, with maritime archaeology dating back 4,000 years. This particular so-called “natural anchorage site” dates back 900 years, according to the IAA statement. The director of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Marine Archaeology Unit, Kobi Sharvit, explained that the Carmel coast provided shelter for ships during storms. Therefore, the entire area attracted merchant ships, and this is why the site is so “rich in archaeological finds,” explained Sharvit.
The Jerusalem Post explained that during the Crusades the Roman Catholic Church insisted on “liberating the holy sites from Muslim rule.” In response, powerful European crowns funded several major military campaigns in the Middle East between the 11th and 13th centuries leading to Christian states in what are today Israel, Lebanon and Syria.
A “military order” is most accurately defined as a “Christian religious society of rich European nobles.” Having taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, these nobles joined military orders including the Knights Templar, the Knights Hospitaller and the Teutonic Knights. Knights of these orders dedicated their lives to protecting pilgrims in the Holy Land, and defending sites associated with Jesus.
The Crusader sword being brandished by IAA inspector Nir Distelfeld. (Anastasia Shapiro / Israel Antiquities Authority)
The Pearls of Finding Sub Sea Archaeology
All treasure-finders, but particularly divers, find themselves in a very precarious position when they come across ancient artifacts. You see, ideally, artifacts should be left in situ so that their context can be interpreted. However, when finds are made near popular tourist resorts, if they are left in place there always stands a chance that a less heritage-minded diver will come across the find. Furthermore, underwater artifacts in the sea are revealed and covered with shifting sands on the seafloor depending on tides, so if diver Shlomi Katzin had left the sword, it might have been lost for another 900 years.
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A report in Haaretz explained that in this particular case of the Crusader sword discovery, before IAA officials had a chance to examine the sword, Katzin bought it ashore and took it to the Robbery Prevention Unit’s northern district office. The sword has since been given to the National Treasures Department and IAA general director Eli Escosido said the plan is to restore it before it is displayed to the public.
Top image: The crusader sword was found encrusted with mollusks off the coast of Israel. Source: Shlomi Katzin / Israel Antiquities Authority
By Ashley Cowie