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Christian and Muslim symbols found on 7th century wreck

In Israel, an archaeological site located on a shipwreck dating from 1300 years ago was found and examined. As a result of the work, artefacts in the form of religious symbols of two religions – Christian and Muslim – were found, among others, but also detailed documentation of the wreck itself was collected. The investigated
Published: July 27, 2020 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 20:27
Christian and Muslim symbols found on 7th century wreck

In Israel, an archaeological site located on a shipwreck dating from 1300 years ago was found and examined. As a result of the work, artefacts in the form of religious symbols of two religions – Christian and Muslim – were found, among others, but also detailed documentation of the wreck itself was collected.

The investigated vessel is the remains of a merchant ship, measuring about 25 metres, which sank a few dozen metres off the coast of present-day Israel. Due to the short distance between the wreck and the shore, it is assumed that none of the crew died as a result of the sinking.

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Instead, not only the ship was found at the bottom, but also its entire cargo, which, according to the findings of archaeologists, included 103 amphorae, filled with all forms of agricultural products, numerous everyday objects used by the crew and many other unique artefacts, as well as several Greek and Arabic inscriptions.

According to the available information, the whole site represents a very good state of preservation. Both the wreck and its cargo have been lying for thirteen centuries buried under a layer of sand and sediments, which perfectly preserved them. The specific nature of the local waters means that the location of the wreck, although known for several years, was not easy to determine. All because the bottom uncovers the wreck every now and then and covers it with a layer of sand.

Israel to investigate 7th century wreck divers24.co.uk The site has been investigated by the Leon Recanati Institute for Marine Research at the University of Haifa since 2016. The researchers uncovered the remains of the vessel and its cargo, which gave them a unique opportunity to peer into the past and learn not only about the menus of the region’s inhabitants at the time, but also details of boatbuilding art. An added bonus was the fact that the vessel dates back to the transition between Byzantine and Muslim rule.

It is already known that this remarkable wreck also represents the largest collection of Byzantine cargo and early Islamic pottery ever discovered in Israeli waters. A complete sensation, on the other hand, are two of the six amphora types found, which have never been discovered before.

“We have not been able to establish with certainty what caused the ship to sink, but we believe it was probably a navigational error. We are talking about an extremely large vessel that was carefully built and preserved in a beautiful way,” – Deborah Cvikel, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa, told The Jerusalem Post

Based on their findings, scientists believe that the ship must have sailed a route that took it through Levant ports in Cyprus, Egypt and possibly off the coast of Israel before it sank.

The size and richness of the cargo seem to contradict the currently popular view among scholars that trade in the eastern Mediterranean was limited during the transition period between Byzantium and Islam, between the seventh and eighth centuries.

The inscriptions found by archaeologists have provided an insight into the fascinating complexity of the period, with Greek and Arabic inscriptions at the forefront, as well as Christian and Muslim religious symbols found on the ship, whether carved into its structural elements or placed on amphorae. Among them the name of Allah written in Arabic, as well as several crosses.

“We don’t know if the crew were Christians or Muslims, but we found traces of both religions on the ship,” Cvikel said

Although research has been carried out at the site for several years, there is still much to be discovered. The stern of the ship has yet to be uncovered, which is an interesting point as it is where the captain’s room should have been. In addition, many of the finds that have been made in recent years will soon be thoroughly researched, which will certainly allow many interesting facts to be established.

Source: Jerusalem Post
Photo: A. Yurman/Leon Recanati Institute For Maritime Studies Of The University Of Haifa

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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