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Diver pulls 900-year-old Crusader sword from seafloor

Though encrusted with marine organisms, one-meter-long blade is preserved in perfect condition, expert says; finder given outstanding citizen award for handing in relic

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • Jacob Sharvit of the Israel Antiquities Authority displays an ancient one-meter-long sword that experts say dates back to the Crusader-era and is believed to have belonged to a Crusader, at the beach in Caesarea, on October 19, 2021 days after being discovered by a local diver. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
    Jacob Sharvit of the Israel Antiquities Authority displays an ancient one-meter-long sword that experts say dates back to the Crusader-era and is believed to have belonged to a Crusader, at the beach in Caesarea, on October 19, 2021 days after being discovered by a local diver. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
  • A Crusader sword found by diver Shlomi Katzin on the Mediterranean seabed (Shlomi Katzin)
    A Crusader sword found by diver Shlomi Katzin on the Mediterranean seabed (Shlomi Katzin)
  • A Crusader sword found by diver Shlomi Katzin on the Mediterranean seabed (Shlomi Katzin)
    A Crusader sword found by diver Shlomi Katzin on the Mediterranean seabed (Shlomi Katzin)
  • Diver Shlomi Katzin with the sword. (Nir Disteleld/Israel Antiquities Authority)
    Diver Shlomi Katzin with the sword. (Nir Disteleld/Israel Antiquities Authority)
  • The encrusted hilt of a Crusader sword found by diver Shlomi Katzin on the Mediterranean seabed (Shlomi Katzin)
    The encrusted hilt of a Crusader sword found by diver Shlomi Katzin on the Mediterranean seabed (Shlomi Katzin)
  • Nir Distelfeld, inspector for the Israel Antiquities Authority, with the Crusader sword. (Anastasia Shapiro/Israel Antiquities Authority)
    Nir Distelfeld, inspector for the Israel Antiquities Authority, with the Crusader sword. (Anastasia Shapiro/Israel Antiquities Authority)
  • A picture taken on October 19, 2021, shows an ancient one-meter-long sword that experts say dates back to the Crusader-era and is believed to have belonged to a Crusader, displayed at the beach in Caesarea, days after being discovered by a local diver. (Jack GUEZ / AFP)
    A picture taken on October 19, 2021, shows an ancient one-meter-long sword that experts say dates back to the Crusader-era and is believed to have belonged to a Crusader, displayed at the beach in Caesarea, days after being discovered by a local diver. (Jack GUEZ / AFP)

A diver found a 900-year-old sword dating back to the Crusader period off the Carmel beach in the north of the country, along with various other artifacts, the Israel Antiques Authority said Monday.

Atlit resident Shlomi Katzin turned over the weapon to the Israel Antiques Authority and was awarded a certificate of good citizenship.

Katzin found the sword during a Saturday dive in an area off the coast where waves and undercurrents had apparently shifted sand, revealing the item, the IAI said in a statement.

Spying stone and metal anchors, Katzin also noticed the sword, which was encrusted with marine life.

It has a one-meter blade and a 30-centimeter hilt.

“The sword, which has been preserved in perfect condition, is a beautiful and rare find and evidently belonged to a Crusader knight,” said Nir Distelfeld, inspector for the IAI’s Robbery Prevention Unit. He assessed it is likely made of iron.

A Crusader sword found by diver Shlomi Katzin on the Mediterranean seabed (Shlomi Katzin)

Concerned that others might find the sword before IAA officials had a chance to examine it in place, Katzin bought it ashore and took it to the Robbery Prevention Unit’s northern district office. The sword has been handed over to the National Treasures Department, the statement said.

“Once the sword has been cleaned and researched in the Israel Antiquities Authority’s laboratories, we will ensure it is displayed to the public,” IAA general director Eli Escosido said.

Diver Shlomi Katzin with the sword. (Nir Disteleld/Israel Antiquities Authority)

The director of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Marine Archaeology Unit, Kobi Sharvit, explained that the Carmel coast, with its many natural coves, provided shelter for ships during storms throughout centuries of shipping activity along the coast.

“These conditions have attracted merchant ships down the ages, leaving behind rich archaeological finds,” he said. “The recently recovered sword is just one such find.”

The clip below was filmed by diver Shlomi Katzin:

The site where the sword was found was first noticed in June and has since been monitored by the IAA, as it contains items of archaeological interest.

Discoveries show that it was used as early as 4,000 years ago as a natural anchorage site and the sword indicates it was still in use 900 years ago, the IAA said.

A Crusader sword found by diver Shlomi Katzin on the Mediterranean seabed (Shlomi Katzin)

However, finds are elusive as they are revealed or covered over with the shifting sands on the seafloor.

“Even the smallest storm moves the sand and reveals areas on the seabed, meanwhile burying others,” Sharvit said, noting that as the popularity of leisure diving has grown in recent years there has been an increase in finds.

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