More than 1,600 years ago, a Roman ship full of carved statues, bronze lamps, and loads of coins was lost at sea. Just recently a group of divers stumbled upon the wreckage—and what they found is magnificent.
A pair of divers on a trip in the waters of Caesarea National Park, off the Mediterranean coast of Israel, made the initial find and reported it to the Israel Antiquities Authority. The IAA traveled to the site and, over the course of several weeks, divers were able to retrieve a number of well-preserved items from the shipwreck.
Highlights of the underwater dig include a series of life-sized bronze statues of gods; a bronze faucet featuring a boar carrying a swan on its head; and a solidified chunk of ancient coins that weighs almost 50 pounds.
Some of the artifacts are marked by clues as to what took down the ship in the first place. After closely examining a series of wooden and iron anchors amidst the wreckage, the researchers concluded that during a storm the sailors attempted to drop anchor to keep themselves from drifting out to sea. The storm, however, was too powerful and the anchors broke, leaving the doomed ship at the mercy of the waves and water.
This is the largest cache of marine artifacts uncovered in over 30 years, but their true value may be the excellent condition of the haul. The sand covering the artifacts acted as a protective coat, preserving them. Often, the classical statues we see in museums have been recast or altered at some point in the hundreds of years since their creation. Similarly, many coins are melted down and re-stamped over the years. These new artifacts, however, have been completely untouched since the ship sank, giving us a true snapshot of what things really looked like long ago.