Sunken Cargo

Digs & Discoveries September/October 2023

DD Israel Caesarea Excavation
(Israel Antiquities Authority )

Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologists have begun to investigate 44 tons of marble building materials that a swimmer spotted in shallow water 600 feet off the coast of the ancient Roman port of Caesarea after they were exposed by a recent storm. The huge number of finely carved columns, capitals, and other architectural elements were part of the cargo of a merchant ship sailing from the Aegean or Black Sea region that sank almost 2,000 years ago, scattering its contents on the seafloor.

Digs Israel Caesarea Marble Column
Marble capital, Caesarea, Israel(Israel Antiquities Authority)

According to IAA archaeologist Koby Sharvit, the building materials were likely intended for a temple or other monumental structure. “These fine pieces are characteristic of large-scale, majestic public buildings,” he says. “In Roman Caesarea, such architectural elements were usually made of local stone covered with white plaster to appear like marble. Here we are talking about genuine marble.” Sharvit says that while archaeologists knew about the shipwreck, they weren’t able to precisely locate it. Now they will be able to study it and assess its scope and significance.

  • Artifacts September/October 2023


    Read Article
    (Courtesy James Davidson)
  • Around the World September/October 2023


    Read Article
    (Flinders University)
  • Digs & Discoveries September/October 2023

    Nose to Tail

    Read Article
  • Features September/October 2023

    Ukraine's Lost Capital

    In 1708, Peter the Great destroyed Baturyn, a bastion of Cossack independence and culture

    Read Article