Diver spots something in ocean — it was a shipwreck of rare cargo from 1,800 years ago

Diver spots something in ocean — it was a shipwreck of rare cargo from 1,800 years ago

Gideon Harris is an experienced diver, but recently he was swimming off the coast of Israel when he spotted something unusual in the sand: ancient columns.

Buried beneath the ocean floor in the coastal waters of Beit Yanai, Harris had discovered a Roman-era shipwreck teeming with 1,800-year-old marble artifacts, according to a news release from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Experts said they had been aware of the massive merchant ship — which could carry up to 200 tons of cargo — but they had never been able to locate it before Harris’ discovery.

“We didn’t know its exact whereabouts as it was covered over by sand, and we … therefore could not investigate it,” Koby Sharvit, director of the underwater archaeology unit at the antiquities authority, said in the release. “The recent storms must have exposed the cargo, and thanks to Gideon’s important report, we have been able to register its location.”

Inside the ship, archaeologists discovered a trove of Roman marble artifacts that were likely intended for use in building a “magnificent” public building, such as a temple or theater, experts said. The ship and its contents are the oldest of their kind to be discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Experts said the ship likely wrecked during a storm.

“Such storms often blow up suddenly along the country’s coast and due to the ships’ limited maneuvering potential, they are often dragged into the shallow waters and shipwrecked,” Sharvit said.

The antiquities authority is conducting more extensive research of the wreck, officials said.

Beit Yanai is about 20 miles north of Tel-Aviv.

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