Last month off the coast of northern Israel, divers stumbled upon one of the country's most significant marine archaeological finds in the last 30 years—the cargo of a sunken merchant ship from Roman times, The Art Newspaper reports.

Estimated to be 1600 years old, the shipwreck cargo in the port of Caesarea, an ancient Roman city, was discovered in April by two divers who reported the find to the Israel Antiquities Authority. A subsequent investigation salvaged a treasure trove of ancient metal objects, including a spate of well-preserved bronze statues, thousands of metallic coins, and shards of pottery.

According to press remarks made by the heads of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s marine archaeology department, the "location and distribution of the ancient finds on the seabed indicate that a large merchant ship was carrying a cargo of metal slated recycling, which apparently encountered a storm at the entrance to the harbor and drifted until it smashed into the seawall and the rocks."

Metal statues from Roman times are particularly rare, because they were typically melted down and the material recycled. So the storm that sunk the ancient ship inadvertently saved numerous figurines from destruction. Buried in sand, they look “as though they were cast yesterday,” according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. The finds included bronze lamps fashioned in the images of the sun god Sol and the head of an African slave, a faucet depicting a boar with a swan on its head, three life-size bronze statues, and more. Almost 45 pounds of metal coins were discovered fused together into two clumps in the shape of the vessels they were stored in.

In the future, some of these artifacts may be put on display for visitors to Caesarea National Park. Some of the thousands of ancient gold coins discovered in the harbor last year are already on exhibit there.

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

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