In the shallow waters off the Carmel coast of Israel, amateur diver Shlomi Katzin found more than he bargained for last Saturday.
Amid the shifting sands, Katzin spotted a 900-year-old sword that is dated to the time of the Crusades.
The nearly four-foot blade, “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 a statement.
“It was found encrusted with marine organisms, but is apparently made of iron. 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.”
Beginning in the 11th century between 1096 and 1291, eight major Crusade expeditions occurred as Christian leaders of Europe sent Crusader armies to the Middle East with the bloody intent of securing control of holy sites considered sacred by both groups. After the Muslim sultan Saladin retook Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187, England’s Richard I led an army against him, traveling south along Israel’s coast from Acre to Jaffa, writes the Smithsonian Magazine.
Since June of this year the coast, which contains many natural coves that would have provided shelter for ancient ships, has been monitored by the Israel Antiquities Authority after a couple found artifacts indicating that the anchorage had been used in as early as the Late Bronze Age, 4,000 years ago.
The discovery of artifacts remains elusive, however, as shifting sands and tides reveal objects, only to quickly make them disappear once again.
After spending nearly 900 years submerged in water and covered in encrustations it is difficult at this stage to say more about the sword, but according to Koby Sharvit, director of the IAA’s marine archaeology unit, the dimensions are characteristic of Crusader swords and, most importantly, it was found more than 600 feet from the shore. Muslim forces didn’t travel by sea, rather they built defensive fortifications to await the arriving Christian forces.
While little else is known, the heft of the blade, according to the IAA, is impressive.
“That means that the guy that held this sword and [fought] with it was very strong. I’m trying to imagine him on the field with all the armor on him and the sword and fighting with it.
“He should really be in good fitness, maybe they were bigger than us today but definitely stronger. And it’s amazing,” Sharvit told the BBC.
The salvaged sword is now entrusted to the IAA’s National Treasures Department, with plans to clean and study the weapon further before putting it on display to the public.