By Dr. Don Bierle, FaithSearch President
Scholars have long known that a unique record of human activity exists in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea. Until the development of SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) during World War II, scientists could not effectively explore this repository of history and artifacts.
The year 1960 marked the beginning of modern underwater archaeology. That year, off the coast of Israel, researchers began the underwater excavation of Caesarea Maritima, operating from the research vessel, Sea Diver. Shipwreck archaeology and the archaeology of submerged coastal sites emerged as an exciting new frontier in the study of human history. What are some of the most remarkable discoveries to date in shipwreck archaeology?
- A golden ring of the Good Shepherd. The green gem of the latter was masterfully worked with an image of a young shepherd wearing a tunic and holding a lamb on his shoulder. The image is one of the earliest known Christian symbols associated with Jesus. This unique ring gives a hint as to its original owner, who was likely a wealthy Christian living in Caesarea.
- A hoard of gold coins—the largest discovered to date in Israel—was found by divers in the Caesarea harbor. The cache contained almost 2,000 gold coins, which were minted in Egypt and North Africa.
- Two shipwrecks just outside the harbor yielded a hoard of Roman bronze and silver coins, a small bronze Roman eagle, dozens of bronze bells, pottery vessels, and an intricately carved red gemstone
- A late Roman cargo ship in which they discovered a bronze lamp depicting the sun god Sol, a figurine of the moon goddess Luna, remains of three life-size bronze statues, and thousands of coins that weighed in all forty-four pounds.
According to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), “To date, only about six percent of Caesarea’s treasures have been discovered, and magnificent finds on a global scale are buried beneath its sand dunes.” An IAA press release revealed that about $27.5 million USD has been committed by several organizations to build “an innovative visitor center, installations for the benefit of visitors, and a spectacular archaeological park” at Caesarea.
Sources for both Caesarea articles: “Caesarea Maritima: The Search for Herod’s City,” August 24, 2015, By Robert J. Bull, Bible History Daily blog, published by Biblical Archaeology Review.
“On-Site at Caesarea Maritima,” January 24, 2022, By Nathan Steinmeyer, Bible History Daily Daily blog, published by Biblical Archaeology Review.
“New Discoveries Unveiled at Caesarea Maritima,” May 04, 2017, By Robin Ngo, Bible History Daily blog, published by Biblical Archaeology Review.
“Divers Discover Sunken Cargo at Herod’s Port City,” May 19, 2016, By Robin Ngo, Bible History Daily blog, published by Biblical Archaeology Review.
“Roman Concrete,” June 13, 2013, By Robin Ngo, Bible History Daily blog, published by Biblical Archaeology Review.