Medieval Sword Found In The Sea Off The Carmel Coast Was Probably Used In Combat 800 Years Ago
The Medieval sword was found in the sea off the Carmel coast, and it probably fell into the water during a naval battle approximately 800 years ago.
Swimmer Shlomi Katzin with the sword from the sea. Photo by Nir Distelfeld, Israel Antiquities Authority
A paper published by researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Soreq Nuclear Research Center in the IAA journal ‘Atiqot reveals new details about the this ancient sword. The discovery of this artifact aroused worldwide interest.
A new study published by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the latest issue of ‘Atiqot sheds light on a sword discovered in the sea in 2021 by divers Raffi Bahalul, Shlomi Katzin, and Dr. Ehud Galili. The discovery of the sword attracted enormous interest and it was reported in many media outlets worldwide.
The sword was covered in a thick marine concretion of sand and shells, making it difficult to separate the metal without causing damage.
Visualization of the sword as seen under the marine bracelet. Joppe Gosker, Israel Antiquities Authority
“It is unfortunate that we can’t see the sword as it was,” the researchers say.
“On the other hand, the concretion is responsible for slowing down the oxidation process, preserving the sword in its entirety. Otherwise, the iron would have rusted and disintegrated in the water.
”The collaboration between the Israel Antiquities Authority researchers, Dr. Yotam Asscher, Dr. Joppe Gosker and Jacob Sharvit, and the researchers from the Soreq Nuclear Research Center, Itzak Hershko, and Dan Braitman, allowed the ancient sword to be studied without removing the sand and shell coating. Cutting-edge X-ray technology made it possible to visually penetrate the layers of marine concretion and glimpse the original outline of the sword.
“The sword was used by a Crusader warrior who settled in the country after the First Crusade and established the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099,” says Sharvit from the Israel Antiquities Authority.
“Considering the bloody battles that took place in the country between the Crusaders and the Muslims, known from several historical sources, we could expect to find more such swords. In practice, we mostly find fragments, very few whole swords.
So far, seven swords from this period have been found in the country, most of them discovered in the sea. Swords were not usually discarded, but over the years, once they were no longer in use, the metal was recycled for other uses.”
The study of the sword revealed that the sword, with an 88 cm long and 4.6 cm wide blade, was probably used in combat: the X-ray examination clearly showed that it is bent.
The sword as found in the sea. Photo by Shlomi Katzin.
“The sword was part of a knight’s or warrior’s personal equipment. It was the main weapon in face-to-face combat in those days,” says Dr. Joppe Gosker.
“Swords required a lot of quality iron and were therefore expensive. In addition, sword fighting required training and practice, and therefore, only the nobility and professional soldiers fought with swords.”
The researchers estimate that the sword fell into the sea during a battle – perhaps
between naval vessels.
“Being expensive, swords are usually found within a scabbard. In this case, only the sword was found. From this, we can infer that it fell into the sea during a battle, possibly with its owner. We didn’t find any additional remains in our scans of the place, but who knows? The warrior may still lie undiscovered in the depths, to be revealed one day by the shifting sands.”
This is what a battle looked like in the medieval battle simulation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem Club. Photo by Emil Eljam, Israel Antiquities Authority
The Crusader Frankish period in Israel began in1099, with the conquest of Jerusalem from the Fatimid Caliphate, who had ruled the country until that time. In Israel, the Crusader period lasted less than two hundred years, and started with a new phenomenon in Christianity – a Crusade.
These armed pilgrimages were intended to further the territorial interests of Christianity. The pious Christians who participated in the crusades—knights, princes, nobles, and ordinary people—were later called Crusaders.
Dr. Joppe Gosker from the Israel Antiquities Authority. Photo: Einat Ambar-Armon, Israel Antiquities Authority
After the conquest of Jerusalem, efforts were turned to conquering the coastal cities. Access to the ports was a necessary condition for the survival of the Frankish settlements, which were dependent on supplies from Europe. During this period, a strong connection developed with Pisa, Venice, and other Italian republics, who sent their fleets to the Holy Land to lay a naval siege on the Muslim coastal cities.
The sword could have been on one of the ships that laid siege on the coastal cities, or perhaps it belonged to a knight who was on a ship returning home to Europe.
“Every new find uncovered during archaeological research or by chance, adds another piece of information to our understanding of a period or a site. Thus, the divers, who reported the find to the Israel Antiquities Authority, received a certificate of appreciation,” said Eli Escusido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority,
All along the coast of Israel, there are many finds buried beneath the sand and in the sea, and they are often lost forever, or sometimes discovered by chance.
It is important that qualified archaeologists record the finds and their contexts. Over recent years, sea diving has become a popular sport, and hundreds of pairs of eyes search the seabed.
Consequently, new discoveries are made, and they must be reported to the Israel Antiquities Authority, and recorded and kept in the State Treasuries, enriching our archaeological heritage.”