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Rock or relic? Diver finds 900-year-old sword thought to belong to Crusader knight

The artifact was found in an area thought to have been used as a temporary anchorage as early as the Late Bronze Age.

An Israeli scuba diver has discovered an ancient sword off the country's Mediterranean Coast that experts believe dates back to the time of the Crusaders.

Shlomi Katzin was recently on a weekend scuba dive off Israel's Carmel coast, south of Haifa, when he came across a trove of artifacts nestled on the seabed, including stone and metal anchors, pottery fragments and the sword, according to Israel Antiquities Authority. The weapon is thought to be some 900 years old.

The treasures were apparently uncovered by shifting sands that revealed the artifacts hidden on the sea floor, the authority said in a statement Monday announcing the discovery.

This stretch of coast has many natural coves where, through the ages, ships have sheltered from storms and sometimes left behind troves of archaeological treasure, according to Kobi Sharvit, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s marine archaeology unit. 

The sword believed to have belonged to a Crusader who sailed to the Holy Land almost a millennium ago.Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

Fearing it would be stolen or buried again, Katzin took the organism-encrusted sword ashore and reported the find to the antiquities body, which is responsible for protecting such discoveries. 

“The sword, which has been preserved in perfect condition, is a beautiful and rare find and evidently belonged to a Crusader knight,” Nir Distelfeld, inspector for the Israel Antiquities Authority’s robbery prevention unit, said in the statement.

“It is exciting to encounter such a personal object, taking you 900 years back in time to a different era, with knights, armor and swords.” 

The sword's blade, believed to be made of iron, measures around 40 inches and the hilt some 14 inches, the authority said.

“The recent discovery of the sword suggests that the natural cove was also used in the Crusader period, some 900 years ago,” Kobi Sharvit said. Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

The antiquities body said it has been monitoring the site where the anchors and the sword were found since June, but the area's treasures have remained elusive due to the movement of the sands.

The discoveries also show that the area served as a small, temporary anchorage for ships seeking shelter as early as the Late Bronze Age, 4,000 years ago, according to Sharvit, of the marine archaeology unit. 

“The recent discovery of the sword suggests that the natural cove was also used in the Crusader period, some 900 years ago,” Sharvit added. 

Katzin received a certificate of appreciation for good citizenship for reporting the sword to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which said the sword would be displayed to the public once it had been cleaned and researched. 

The Holy Land has been a religious and historical hotspot for millennia, and Israeli archaeologists and members of the public often report rare and ancient discoveries.

In March, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced that a new set of Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient fragments of biblical texts dating back almost 2,000 years, had been found in an Israeli desert. It was the first such discovery in 60 years.