‘Priceless’ trove of 2,000 gold coins used by 10th Century Caliphate which once ruled much of the Middle East is found off the coast of Israel
- Largest haul ever found off Israel’s Mediterranean coast
- Divers found coins dating back more 1,000 years by pure chance
- Thought they were toy coins before experts confirmed they were gold
- Work ongoing to trace origins of the treasure, uncovered by storm
- Valuable haul is property of the state with no finder’s fee for divers
Scuba divers have uncovered the largest treasure trove ever discovered off Israel’s Mediterranean coast – but won’t get a penny.
The group initially thought they had found a toy coin on the ocean floor before tests confirmed the gold pieces were treasure.
Experts who eventually counted 2,000 pieces, dating back more than 1,000 years, described the discovery as ‘priceless.’ The coins are now property of the state with no finder’s fee for the divers.
Members of a diving club in the Roman-era port stumbled across the treasure, weighing nearly 20 pounds, by pure chance while on a dive.
‘The largest treasure of gold coins discovered in Israel was found in recent weeks on the seabed in the ancient harbour in Caesarea,’ said a statement by Israeli Antiquities Authority.
‘At first they thought they had spotted a toy coin from a game and it was only after they understood the coin was the real thing that they collected several coins and quickly returned to the shore in order to inform the director of the dive club about their find’.
Experts from the authority called to the site uncovered almost 2,000 gold coins in different denominations, circulated by the Fatimid Caliphate, which ruled much of the Middle East and North Africa from 909 to 1171.
Kobi Sharvit, director of the marine archaeology unit at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said excavations would be carried out in the hope of shedding more light on the origin of the treasure.
‘There is probably a shipwreck there of an official treasury boat which was on its way to the central government in Egypt with taxes that had been collected,’ said Sharvit.
‘Perhaps the treasure of coins was meant to pay the salaries of the Fatimid military garrison which was stationed in Caesarea and protected the city.
Treasure: It is the largest treasure trove ever discovered off Israel’s Mediterranean coast with the country’s antiquities authority calling it ‘priceless’.
‘Another theory is that the treasure was money belonging to a large merchant ship that traded with the coastal cities and the port on the Mediterranean Sea and sank there,’ he said.
The Israeli Antiquities Authority declined to put a cash value on the coins, which it said had been exposed as a result of winter storms.