Sunken treasure is biggest ancient coin discovery in Israel’s history, archaeologists say

At first the glinting gold disc on the sea bed looked like a toy coin from a children’s game.

Only on closer inspection did the group of five divers realise they had uncovered a much bigger haul that was part of a hidden treasure trove.

Now Israel’s Antiquities Authority is hailing the discovery in the historic harbour in the coastal resort of Caeserea as the biggest ancient coin find in the nation’s history after the local divers’ club alerted it to what its members had found.

Experts from the authorities visited the aquatic scene with metal detectors and found nearly 2,000 gold sovereigns in different denominations.

The sunken treasure was in near perfect condition despite being exposed to salt water for a millennium, attributed by experts to gold’s “noble metal” properties of being unaffected by air or water.

Some coins are bent or show teeth marks, evidence that they were inspected by traders for authenticity.

Archaeologists believe the coins ended up at the bottom of the sea as the result of a shipwreck.

Kobi Sharvit, director of the Antiquities Authority’s Marine Archaeology Unit, said their source was unknown but offered several theories – fxcm including the possibility that the ship was en route to the seat of the Fatimid empire’s central government in Cario after collecting taxes when it sank.

“Perhaps the treasure of coins was meant to pay the salaries of the Fatimid military garrison which was stationed in Caesarea and protected the city,” Mr Sharvit added as an alternative.

“Another theory is that the treasure was money belonging to a large merchant ship that traded with the coastal cities and the port on the Mediterranean Sea and sank there.”

The Fatimid dynasty, whose rulers were Shia Muslims, ran a large empire in North Africa and the Middle East from AD 909 to 1171. It was believed to have descended from Fatima bint Muhammad, daughter of the Prophet Mohammed, according to claims of the Fatimids.


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