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An Israeli scuba diver discovered a sword that likely belonged to a Crusader knight

Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, holds a sword that experts say dates back to the Crusaders in Cesarea, Israel, on Tuesday.
Ariel Schalit
Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, holds a sword that experts say dates back to the Crusaders in Cesarea, Israel, on Tuesday.

Talk about a deep dive through history.

An amateur Israeli scuba diver stumbled upon a bunch of ancient artifacts near his local beach, including a large sword that experts say likely belonged to a Crusader knight some 900 years ago.

Shlomi Katzin was diving off the Carmel coast on Saturday when he discovered the trove of treasures, which Israel's foreign affairs ministry says included anchors made of metal and ancient stone, pottery fragments and an "impressive sword with a one-meter-long blade and a hilt measuring 30 cm [nearly a foot] in length."

Katzin took the sword ashore and reported it to the Israel Antiquities Authority, where experts were able to fill in its backstory.

"The sword, 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."

One of many treasures unearthed off the Carmel Coast

The sword is just one of several recent — and ancient — discoveries in these particular waters.

The Carmel Coast contains natural coves, which offered shelter to ancient ships during storms, and larger coves that allowed for the formation of settlements and ancient port cities, explained Kobi Sharvit, the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority's Marine Archaeology Unit.

"These conditions have attracted merchant ships down the ages, leaving behind rich archaeological finds," he added.

Experts were able to determine that the anchors were used as early as the Late Bronze Age — or 4,000 years ago. Authorities said that the discovery of the sword suggests the natural cove was also used in the Crusader period (between 1095 and 1291).

So why are they just surfacing now?

The foreign ministry said that Katzin's finds were uncovered by waves and shifting undercurrents. They called such finds "very elusive," since they depend on the movement of the sands.

Still, the antiquities experts said that a growing number of swimmers and leisure divers have discovered ancient artifacts in recent years as those activities become more popular.

"Underwater surveying is dynamic," Sharvit said. "Even the smallest storm moves the sand and reveals areas on the sea bed, meanwhile burying others. It is therefore vitally important to report any such finds and we always try to document them in situ, in order to retrieve as much archaeological data as possible."

The Israel Antiquities Authority says the sword will be displayed to the public after it has been cleaned and researched.

And while Katzin turned over his findings, he won't necessarily be leaving empty-handed. The ministry says he got a "certificate of appreciation for good citizenship."

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.