Amateur divers discover ‘amazing’ Roman treasure trove in ancient shipwreck

The cargo of a Roman-era ship that sank off the Mediterranean coast 1,600 years ago has been discovered near Israel. Divers recovered thousands of coins and fragments of life-size bronze cast statues - described as the country’s most significant discovery of Roman-era artefacts for 30 years. The Israel Antiques Authority said the finds are in an “amazing state” of preservation thanks to coatings of sand. The remains of the ship were “left uncovered on the sea bottom” and were discovered by two divers last month, with successive trips recovering the haul.

I dive here every other weekend and I never found anything like that ever.

Ofer Raanan

The cargo, which also includes animal-shaped objects and bronze lamps, is a rare archaeological find as metal statues of this kind were routinely melted down and recycled during the period. Previous excavations in the ancient harbour of Caesarea, where the cargo was found, had uncovered some bronze statues but this haul is said to be much larger than previous discoveries. It is thought the merchant ship was carrying the metal cargo with the intention of recycling it. The director of marine archaeology at the IAA said some of the objects could be traced back to the fourth century, while other items are from the first and second century.