Israel’s Ancient Underwater Treasure


In 2015, divers discovered a hoard of more than 2,000 gold coins on the ocean floor off the coast of Caesarea – the largest stash ever found in the region.

On an overcast morning in February 2015, Zvika Fayer was scuba diving off the ancient Israeli port town of Caesarea when he saw a glimmer on the sand.

He’d gone diving in the area dozens of times before, and loved it for the teeming fish and scattered remains of shipwreck cargo and pottery that he sometimes glimpsed on the ocean floor. Many of Israel’s underwater archaeological zones are open to divers, and Caesarea was one of Fayer’s favourite spots.

A violent storm the previous night had battered Israel’s west coast, stirring up the ocean floor and changing the underwater topography. As Fayer dove deeper to investigate the shimmering object he’d seen, he was aware of another storm on the way. As an experienced diver, he’d felt confident going out that morning. But now the winter sky was beginning to darken, the breeze changing.

As he got closer, Fayer reasoned that the gleam must have been a discarded sweet wrapper, perhaps the chocolate coins that look like pirate doubloons. But as he swept the sand away and picked the item up, he saw that he was wrong. This wasn’t a piece of foil; it was a real gold coin with Arabic script on both sides.

“I was astonished when I saw that both sides of the metal were gold,” he said.

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