Diver Finds 900-year-old Crusaders Sword in Mediterranean
The world's three dominant religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—consider Israel holy ground. While Jews are the only people group to have maintained a presence in the Holy Land for thousands of years, over the last 2,000 years,
Christianity and Islam have fought many wars for dominance in the land. From the 11th to the 13th century, the Roman Catholic church and other powers from Europe—collectively known as The Crusaders—went on religious missions to liberate the Holy Land from the Muslims and claim it for Christianity. And in the process, they also tried to "liberate" it from the Jews living there—killing, raping, and stealing along the way...all while carrying shields and banners with the symbol of the cross emblazoned on them.
Recently, an excavation in Israel unearthed a Crusader camp, the first known excavation of its type. While there are castles and other Crusader artifacts all over Israel, this is the first time a battle encampment has been discovered. This one is in the Galilee region at Tzipori Springs, between Nazareth and the coast.
"The area along Route 79 was known as the site of the Frankish encampment ahead of the battle of Hattin in 1187, as well as for other encampments by both the Crusaders and the Muslims during a period of 125 years," said Dr. Raphael Lewis, a senior lecturer at Ashkelon Academic College and a researcher at Haifa University.
The Crusaders were not a centralized army. They were actually different groups of knights united under the banner of a king. Like a modern army, there were men of different ranks and duties—from cook to commander.
Lewis said they found hundreds of metal artifacts—nails for horseshoeing. "In the site, we found different clusters of artifacts. We saw that the closer we got to the water, the richer the material culture became. We can probably deduce those who belong to a higher socioeconomic status encamped by the spring. Changing those nails probably represented the main activity in the camp. Nobody wanted to find himself in the battle on a horse with a broken shoe."
Lewis said he was surprised not to find much else related to daily life in the encampment, such as cooking pots. The archaeologists surmised that probably that's because those types of vessels were taken back to the castles and other permanent settlements when the encampment packed up to leave.
Also, off the coast of Carmel, which is in the northern part of Israel, a diver found a 900-year-old sword dating back to the same Crusader period.
Shlomi Katzin, the diver, turned over the crusty, ancient sword to the Israel Antiquities Authority and was awarded a good citizenship certificate for his relinquishing the relic. He found it during a Saturday dive.
"The sword, which has been preserved in perfect condition, is a beautiful and rare find and evidently belonged to Crusader knight," said Nir Distelfeld, an inspector for the Israel Antiquities robbery prevention unit.
The site where the sword was found is a natural anchor point near Haifa that's been in use for more than 4000 years. The shifting sands on the seafloor yield interesting artifacts periodically from all the merchant ships that have dropped anchor in the area through the millennia.