The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) on May 15 announced the discovery of several large 1,800-year-old marble artifacts on the seabed near Netanya that comprised “the oldest sea cargo of its kind known in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
The artifacts had been aboard a ship that was wrecked in shallow waters of the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Beit Yanai, a moshav north of Netanya, and include “Corinthian capitals decorated with vegetal motifs, partially carved capitals, and a huge marble architrave, measuring up to 6 meters long,” the IAA said.
“It seems that these valuable architectural elements were destined for a magnificent public building—a temple or perhaps a theatre,” said the IAA.
The location of the artifacts was reported a few weeks earlier by an experienced sea swimmer, Gideon Harris, who reported seeing “ancient columns” on the seabed off Beit Yanai beach, according to the IAA.
Koby Sharvit, the head of the IAA’s underwater archaeology unit, said they had “been aware of the existence of this shipwrecked cargo for a long time” but did not know its exact location.
“From the size of the architectural elements, we can calculate the dimensions of the ship; we are talking about a merchant ship that could bear a cargo of at least 200 tons,” said Sharvit. “These fine pieces are characteristic of large-scale, majestic public buildings. Even in Roman Caesarea, such architectural elements were made of local stone covered with white plaster to appear like marble. Here we are talking about genuine marble,” he said. The marble pieces likely originated in the Aegean or Black Sea regions and were destined for a Roman port such as Ashkelon, Gaza, or Alexandria in Egypt, Sharvit added. Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority via Storyful