3-Foot-Long Sword Discovered Off Israel’s Coast Dates Back to the Crusades

3-Foot-Long Sword Discovered Off Israel’s Coast Dates Back to the Crusades
The 0.91 m-long sword on display in the Mediterranean seaport of Cesarea, Israel. (Image: Ariel Schalit, AP)

An amateur scuba diver out for a weekend swim has found an impressive iron sword dating back to the time of the Crusades.

Israeli scuba diver Shlomi Katzin found the sword near Haifa, Israel, on Saturday, October 16, according to a statement put out by Israel’s Antiquities Authority on its Facebook page. As the Associated Press reports, Katzin was roughly 150 metres from shore and swimming at a depth of 5 metres when he noticed a trove of artifacts strewn across the ocean floor, including anchors, pottery fragments, and perhaps best of all, a 0.91 m-long sword with a 30 cm hilt.

Worried that shifting sands might re-bury the sword, Katzin brought the ancient artefact to shore and contacted local experts.

Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, holding the sword.  (Image: Ariel Schalit, AP) Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, holding the sword. (Image: Ariel Schalit, AP)

“The iron sword has been preserved in perfect condition and is a beautiful and rare find,” Nir Distelfeld, Inspector for the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Robbery Prevention Unit, said in the statement. “It evidently belonged to a Crusader knight. It is exciting to encounter such a personal object, taking you 900 years back in time to a different era, with knights, armour, and swords.”

The Crusades began in the late 11th century, as Christians from Europe sought to wrest control of Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land from Islamic rule. These religious wars, in part a reaction to previous centuries of Muslim expansion in the Middle East and Europe, lasted until 1291 CE.

Scuba diver Shlomi Katzin brandishing the sword he found.  (Image: Israel Antiquities Authority) Scuba diver Shlomi Katzin brandishing the sword he found. (Image: Israel Antiquities Authority)

Kobi Sharvit, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Marine Archaeology Unit, said the sword was found close to Atlit castle — a Crusader fortress. What’s more, this area was once a safe haven for ships during stormy weather, and as such, it’s known for producing items of archaeological significance. Most of these artifacts lie buried, but ocean waves and undercurrents occasionally expose items of interest.

“The archaeological finds at the site show that it served as a small, temporary natural anchorage for ships seeking shelter,” Sharvit explained in the statement. Impressively, the various items found at the site “shows that the anchorage was used as early as the Late Bronze Age, 4,000 years ago,” he said, adding that the “recent discovery of the sword suggests that the natural cove was also used in the Crusader period, some 900 years ago.”

As CNN reports, the iron sword weighs somewhere between 1 to 2 kgs, but the archaeologists won’t know for certain until they remove the approximately 5 kg of marine organisms, rocks, and shells that have collected onto the artefact.

That said, the sword is quite big. “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 armour on him and the sword and fighting with it,” Sharvit told the BBC. “He should really be in good fitness, maybe they were bigger than us today but definitely stronger.”

Once cleaned and analysed, the sword will be put on public display. As for Katzin, he was awarded a certificate of appreciation for his good citizenship.

More: Citizen Scientists Recreate Bronze Age Sword-Fighting Techniques to Uncover Ancient Combat Secrets.