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Underwater Treasure Trove Discovered in Sunken Cargo Ship in Israel

May 17, 2016 03:22 AM EDT

A treasure trove containing Roman-era artifacts was discovered by two amateur divers in Caesarea, Israel.

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the treasure is the biggest uncovered in the last 30 years.

Divers Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra'anan were diving in the Mediterranean Sea just off the Caesarea coast last month when they discovered a sunken merchant ship in the seabed, which they immediately turned over to the IAA.

The divers said they saw the first sculpture on the seabed. But when they found another one, they thought the items were important artifacts and brought them to the surface. They searched the area again and found more.

IAA divers went down to investigate further and found the remains of the merchant ship buried in the sand on the sea floor.

The merchant ship is believed to have gone down off the coast of Caesarea about 1,600 years ago. Many items in the ship's hold were unbelievably preserved, which include a statue of the moon goddess, candlesticks decorated with images of gods and ancient vessels.

Other items recovered are bronze statues, coins with images of Roman emperors Constantine and Licinius, lamps, jars, animal sculptures and anchors.

According to the IAA, some of the objects date back to as far as fourth century AD. They also found the damaged metal anchors of the ship and it led IAA to believe that the sunken ship might have been struck by a storm, which destroyed the anchor and sent the ship drifting with all its cargo into the Caesarean waters.

Last year, divers also discovered thousands of gold Fatimid coins in Caesarea Harbor, which are now on public display. Archeologists attributed the many underwater discoveries in Caesarea to the growing number of active divers in the area. Also, the coast has eroded because of severe winter storms in the region.

Both Feinstein and Ra'anan will be awarded a special citation for their discovery, IAA said.

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