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900-year-old Crusader sword found by diver near Haifa coast

A picture taken on October 19, 2021, shows an ancient one-meter-long sword that experts say dates back to the Crusader-era and is believed to have belonged to a Crusader, displayed at the beach in the Israeli seaport of Caesarea, some days after being discovered by a local diver. [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]
A picture taken on October 19, 2021, shows an ancient one-meter-long sword that experts say dates back to the Crusader-era and is believed to have belonged to a Crusader, displayed at the beach in the Israeli seaport of Caesarea, some days after being discovered by a local diver. [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]

A sword estimated to be 900 years old has been discovered off the coast of Israel's northern coast by an amateur diver.

The one metre blade, covered in barnacles is believed to have belonged to a Crusader knight and was found by Shlomi Katzin on the seabed along the Carmel coast, near the port city of Haifa, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

Nir Distelfeld, inspector for the IAA's Robbery Prevention Unit, said: "The sword, which has been preserved in perfect condition, is a beautiful and rare find and evidently belonged to a crusader knight."

"It was found encrusted with marine organisms, but it's apparently made of iron. It is exciting to encounter such a personal object, taking you 900 years back in time to a different era, with knights, armour, and swords."

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The director of the IAA's Marine Archaeology Unit, Kobi Sharvit, told Haaretz that the sword may have been dropped in sea by a Crusader on route to the Holy Land.

"These conditions have attracted merchant ships down the ages, leaving behind rich archaeological finds," he explained.

"The Carmel coast contains many natural coves that provided shelter for ancient ships in a storm," Sharvit added.

Both the European Crusaders and their Muslim Ayyubid and Mamluk opponents used straight swords, archaeologist Rafi Lewis told Haaretz. "The basic shape of the weapon, a straight sword, didn't evolve much from the time of the Vikings to the 14th century." Although few non-ceremonial Islamic swords have been found from this period, the curved scimitar whose origins lie in Central Asia typically and inaccurately associated with the Muslim armies during the earlier Crusades actually appeared after the 13th century. According to the author of The Sword and the Scimitar, Ernle Bradford: "The crescent-shaped Arabic and Asiatic scimitar was an excellent cutting weapon, particularly when used by a mounted warrior since it was lighter and enjoyed more flexibility in use than the Norman sword."

Once studied, cleaned and restored by the IAA's laboratories, the sword is expected be go on public display.

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