Archaeologists from the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) have discovered hundreds of silver and bronze coins, silver and gold rings, rare gems, figurines and bells during the ongoing excavations of two ancient shipwrecks off the coast of Caesarea.

An underwater archaeologist holds a gold ring with a green gemstone. Image credit: Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority.


The two ships went down more than 1,700 years ago (Roman period) and 600 years ago (Mamluk period) off the coast of Caesarea.

The ships’ cargoes and the remains of their wrecked hulls were found scattered in shallow water at a depth of about 4 m (13 feet).

“The ships were probably anchored nearby and were wrecked by a storm,” IAA archaeologists said.

“They may have been anchored offshore after getting into difficulty, or fearing stormy weather because sailors know well that mooring in shallow, open water outside of a port is dangerous and prone to disaster.”

An octagonal gold ring set with a green gemstone and carved with the ‘Good Shepherd’ figure. Image credit: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The archaeologists found hundreds of silver and bronze Roman coins from the mid-third century CE and a large hoard of silver coins from the Mamluk period.

They also found an inkwell, a bronze figurine in the form of an eagle, a figurine of a Roman pantomimus in a comic mask, numerous bronze bells and pottery vessels, dozens of large bronze nails, lead pipes from a bilge pump, and a large iron anchor.


“The underwater remains include rare personal effects of the shipwrecked victims,” the researchers said.

“Among these were a beautiful red gemstone for setting in a ‘gemma’ ring; the carving of the gemstone shows a lyre. In Jewish tradition, it is called Kinor David.”

Bronze coins from an ancient shipwreck off the coast of Caesarea. Image credit: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

“Another exquisite and rare find is a thick, octagonal gold ring set with a green gemstone carved with the figure of a young shepherd boy dressed in a tunic and bearing a ram or a sheep on his shoulders,” they added.

“The image of the ‘Good Shepherd,’ is one of the earliest and oldest images used in Christianity for symbolizing Jesus.”


“It represents Jesus as humanity’s compassionate shepherd, extending his benevolence to his flock of believers and all mankind.”

“This unique gold ring bearing the ‘Good Shepherd’ figure gives us, possibly, an indication that its owner was an early Christian.”

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