Crusader-Era Shipwreck Discovered on Israeli Coast

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Marine archaeologists have discovered a shipwreck in Israel’s Bay of Haifa, dating back to the Crusades, reports. It contained a cache of 30 Italian gold coins, along with ceramics, nautical objects, and other artifacts.

Only fragments of the ship remain, but radiocarbon dating traces its origins back to the mid-11th to mid-13th centuries CE. Soldiers fleeing a pivotal battle that destroyed the historic city of Acre may have once operated the vessel. It may have also belonged to supporting troops sent by King Henry II, the Christian ruler of Cyprus, reports.

Acre—which sits on the north end of the Bay of Haifa—was a once a Crusader stronghold. Before settling there, Christian soldiers first captured nearby Jerusalem in 1099; by the late 12th century, Muslim forces had pushed them out. The Crusaders remained in Acre, and in 1291, a mighty Egyptian army led by Mamluk sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil ultimately drove the weakened European forces from the region. Historians remember the battle as the Siege of Acre.

As Smithsonian recounts, the Siege of Acre was filled with chaos and bloodshed. Knights in Acre locked themselves in the castle of the Templars until the invading Egyptians tunneled their way in. Meanwhile, wealthy city residents attempted to escape the battle by chartering boats to ships in the harbor that were en route to Italy. (Many of them died before reaching the floating sanctuaries.) King Henry II’s forces—which included 40 ships full of reinforcements—were also defeated. Once the Crusaders were gone, the Mamluks razed the city; it wasn’t rebuilt until centuries later.