Posts Tagged With: Jerusalem

Crusader Shipwreck Discovered off Israel’s Coast, gold coins and more…

Archaeologists have found the wreck of a ship belonging to the Crusaders, dating back to their expulsion from Acre in the thirteenth century CE, off the coast of northern Israel.

The Crusader stronghold was destroyed in 1291 CE when the Mamluk Sultanate captured it, driving the Christian armies from the region. Golden coins dating to the era were found alongside the wreck, making it easy to pinpoint when the ship sank in the waters outside Acre, according to an article appearing in Haaretz.

Taking Acre was a major victory for the Mamluks, as Christian European forces had long used the site as a landing point for countless knights and soldiers. When Jerusalem fell out of Crusader hands after being recaptured by Saladin in 1187, Acre became the new Crusader capital in the Holy Land.

Marine archaeologists from Haifa University Prof. Michal Artzy and Dr. Ehud Galili spearheaded the investigation of the Crusader shipwreck. The ship itself suffered damage while the modern harbor of Acre was being dredged during its construction; the surviving wreckage includes some ballast-covered wooden planks, the ship’s keep, and a few sections of its hull.

Carbon dating has revealed the wood used to construct the hull dates to between 1062 CE and 1250 CE, firmly within the window for Crusader activity in the region. In addition to the associated golden coins found near the wreckage, marine archaeologists also discovered imported ceramic bowls and jugs from southern Italy, Syria, and Cyprus; corroded pieces of iron, mostly nails and anchors, were additional finds.

The biggest find, however, is certainly thought to be the gold coins found with the wreck. A total of 30 florins were found, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority’s coin expert Robert Kool; minted in the Italian republic of Florence – where the coins get their name – the florins were minted from 1252.

Speculation as to how the ship – and the florins – ended up on the bottom of Acre’s harbor is closely tied to the Siege of Acre, as historical eyewitness accounts from the event reported nobles and merchants fleeing from the besieged fortress by boat, often after bribing the owners of these boats with valuables. Many never made it out of the harbor, thought to have drowned there with their riches as the Christian defenders sought futilely to buy them some time to escape.

The Crusader fortress fell on May 18th, 1291, after more than 100 years of Frankish rule. The final defenders, a contingent of Knights Templar, refused to abandon their holdfast. As a result, when Mamluk sappers undermined the walls of the Templar fortress, the entire edifice collapsed, killing the remaining defenders – and around a hundred of the Sultan’s own soldiers as well.

The fall of Acre was the last gasp of the Christian crusades during the medieval era. Once the stronghold was taken by the Mamluks and summarily destroyed, the Catholic Church and the European nobles that supported it abandoned their quest to “liberate” the Holy Land.


Categories: Ancient Treasure, Archaeology, artifacts, gold, gold coins, Legends, Lost Treasure, Middle East, Muslims, sunken ships, treasure, treasure diver, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Mystery of the Lost Ark in Japan…….

Lost Biblical treasures have long held a certain mystique and an air of impenetrable mystery. They provide a somewhat irresistible combination of the allure of lost, ancient artifacts, mixed with a healthy dose of curiosity, romantic notions of faraway exotic lands, and the mystery of whether these relics ever even existed at all. Among such treasures, certainly one that has proven to be one of the most well-known and highly sought after is the fabled Lost Ark of the Covenant. For centuries the quest for this enigmatic artifact has drawn adventurous souls to far flung locales, so far to no avail, but what if the Ark at some point ended up in a land vastly removed from its origins in the Middle East and with virtually no connections to the Christian and Jewish religions that its history is so heavily imbued with? What if it ended up in the far-east country of Japan? As we shall see, sometimes the place where these artifacts end up could possibly be the last place anyone would imagine.

The fabled Ark of the Covenant is perhaps best known to most as the Nazi face melting MacGuffin from the popular film Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it is an actual artifact with a long tradition of mystery. The Ark itself was an ornate, gold gilded chest that held the stone tablets onto which had been written the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God. The Ark was said to be built around 3,000 years ago based on plans that were revealed in a vision from God Himself that Moses had while Israel was camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai. The Book of Exodus says that after the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, Moses was called to the top of Mt. Sinai by God and was given two tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, after which he later received his vision outlining the design of the Ark in order to transport the tablets. The Ark is said to be made up of intricately gold plated acacia wood, and to be adorned with a crown of pure molded gold and two large, golden angels. The Bible describes its dimensions as approximately 131×79×79 cm or 52×31×31 inches. The Ark was carried with the use of two poles that were put through four rings arranged at its four feet.


Far from being merely a vessel in which to carry the tablets, the Ark was believed to be the throne of God, and that wherever it went, He went as well. The Ark was only carried by priests, and was always concealed from view by blue cloth and lamb skins, and not even the priests themselves were allowed to look upon it. The Israelites carried the Ark with them during their 40 year trek across the desert, during which it was usually carried around 2,000 cubits in front of their army, and it proved to be a powerful weapon in their plight.

There are numerous accounts of the Ark unleashing its alleged mighty powers. In 1,400 BC, when Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River into The Promised Land, the Ark is said to have caused the waters to stop flowing and dry out, allowing them all  to pass unhindered. On another occasion, the Israelites besieged the city of Jericho, with God commanding that the Ark be carried around the perimeter of the city once a day for seven days while blowing on trumpets crafted of ram horns. On the seventh day, the Israelites gave out a thunderous shout, and the once formidable walls of the city of Jericho spectacularly collapsed to the ground, allowing the Israelites to enter.

The Ark would go on to be used against the Philistines in battle, with the hopes that this powerful weapon would help the Israelites ultimately win. However, God had not ordered the Israelites to go to war with the Philistine army, and was displeased that the Ark would be used without His consent. Subsequently, the Israelites lost the war and the Ark was captured by the Philistines, who hoped that they would now be able to harness its vast holy powers. Unfortunately for them, rather than a great ally, the Ark proved to be a curse upon them, causing misfortune wherever it went, such as disease and even a plague of mice. After seven months of the Ark bringing them nothing but misery, the Philistines returned it to the Israelites and it was taken to the village of Beth-shemesh. Here it would once again display its power when a large group of curious villagers decided to look upon it and were immediately struck down by its wrath.


The Ark would ultimately end up in Jerusalem, where it was housed in a temple built by King Solomon. In 587 BC, the Babylonians descended upon the city, destroying everything in their path, including Solomon’s Temple, where the Ark was kept. It is not known what happened to the Ark of the Covenant after this, and it has through the years become one of the most mysterious and most highly sought after ancient relics in the world, with countless quests to try and locate it. Next to the Holy Grail itself, there is perhaps no other Biblical relic that has inspired so many to try and hunt it down. Was the Ark destroyed? Was it hidden away before the sacking of Jerusalem? Was it stolen? Did it ever really even exist at all? These are questions for which no one has any definitive answers, but there are many who have tried to figure them out.

Since the Ark’s disappearance there have been numerous theories as to its whereabouts, with its location estimated to be in wildly varying places, and occasional claims to have even found it. One recurring theory is that the Ark was whisked away by the Knights Templar, but where they hid it remains unclear, with the Chartres Cathedral crypt, the Languedoc region of France, or the Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland being popular choices. Other theories revolve around the idea that during the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians, the Ark was spirited away and hidden somewhere in a vast warren of passages beneath the First Temple. Since this site is home to the Dome of the Rock shrine, which is sacred in Islam, it is impossible to conduct any sort of excavation here to see if the story has any truth to it.

One very prominent theory is that the Ark was moved to a secure place far from Jerusalem, in Ethiopia. In Aksum, Ethiopia there is a place called the Church of St. Mary of Zion, where the Ark is said to be interred. A lone monk has been given the duty of guarding this sacred relic, never leaving the church and constantly, dutifully keeping watch over it. It is said that the monk devotes his entire life to the Ark’s safekeeping, after which another will be given the duty upon his death. It is difficult to determine just how genuine this claim is, as no one but the solitary monk is allowed to enter the church, and only this one guardian is allowed to lay eyes upon the Ark. The church could be housing anything or nothing at all. No one knows.


Over the years, the Ark’s location has been believed to be in places as far-flung as Jordan, Egypt, South Africa, the UK, France, Ireland, Rome, and the United States, but one of the weirdest ideas is that it somehow made its way to Japan, where it is said to have ended up at Mt. Tsurugi, in Tokushima prefecture on Shikoku Island. Mt. Tsurugi is 1,955 meters (6,413 ft) high, and is considered a sacred mountain that is inextricably tied to an ancient religion known as Shugendo, which features elements of both Shinto and Buddhism. But how does this tie to the Lost Ark of the Covenant? Why would this relic so linked with Judaism and Christianity wind up here of all places?

The theory was first put forward by literary scholar and historian Masanori Takane, who in the early 1930s claimed to have found numerous strong parallels between the Bible and an ancient 8th century Japanese text on myths surrounding Shinto spirits and the formation of the Japanese Islands, called the Kojiki. Upon making his revelation, Takane carried out exhaustive research on the history, philosophy, and theology surrounding the two, and also delved deeply into geography and local names and folklore until he finally came to the firm conclusion that the Ark of the Covenant was buried somewhere at Mt. Tsurugi.

Takane was so convinced that he had cracked the mystery on where the Ark was hidden that he began an excavation at Mt. Tsurugi in 1936, which amazingly uncovered mysterious stone artifacts, paving stones, tunnels, and a brick arch. These findings were promising, as they seemed to lend credibility to the idea that ancient peoples may have attempted to hide something within the sacred mountain, and thus the excavation became an obsession for Takane, who would spend the next 20 years tirelessly digging in hopes of finding the Ark.


Over the years, Takane’s exciting initial findings attracted other would be archeologists to Mt. Tsurugi to try their hand at finding the Ark as well.  One such expedition in 1952 attracted a good amount of attention when a former naval admiral by the name of Eisuke Yamamoto discovered what appeared to be marble corridors within the mountain, as well as human mummies that had decomposed. Weirdly, both Takane and Yamamoto suddenly and inexplicably stopped all further excavations and attempts to find the Ark shortly after this discovery. Why? No one really knows.

One more excavation was carried out by a treasure hunter named Yoshun Miyanaka in 1956, but his efforts were brought to a halt by the creation of a nature preserve called Tsurugi-san Quasi-National Park, which includes Mt. Turugi and much of the surrounding area in 1964. This new status as a nature preserve made it illegal to conduct archeological digs on Mt. Tsurugi, and so Miyanaka was forced to abandon his valiant search empty handed. It also meant that no one else would be able to look for the Ark here, and all of the the artifacts, tunnels, corridors, and mummies that were found within the mountain will likely forever remain an enigma.

As odd an idea as it may seem that the legendary Ark of the Covenant made its way to all the way to Japan, there are some interesting parallels between its appearance and that of Japanese omikoshi, which are portable shrines that are typically carried about during festivals. Omikoshi are carried on the shoulders with the use of two poles, which are attached to the bottom, very much like the way the Ark was carried, with its two poles similarly attached to the bottom rings of its “four feet.” Additionally, whereas the Ark featured two gold statues of a type of winged angel known as kruvim, Japanese omikoshi also feature a gold statue of a heavenly bird known as a ho-oh. The size of the Ark is also almost exactly the same dimensions of a typical omikoshi, and omikoshi are typically overlaid with gold, just as with the Ark.

A Japanese omikoshi

There are also other interesting links between the customs of ancient Israel surrounding the Ark and those of Japan. For example, it was said that King David and the Israelites sang and danced in front of the Ark to the sounds of music, and during festivals, Japanese sing and dance around omikoshi with music playing as well. In one festival in Kyoto at the Gion shrine, men perform a ritual where they carry an omikoshi across a river, a remarkably similar scene to the ancient Israelites carrying the Ark through the Jordan River during their exodus. In some areas, the bearers of omikoshi sanctify themselves with sea water before carrying it, which is very similar to the ancient Israelite custom of performing a sanctification ritual before carrying the Ark. Additionally, when the Ark was carried into Jerusalem, it is said that David distributed a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a raisin cake to every single Israelite, which seems to somewhat resemble the Japanese custom of passing out sweets to everyone at the conclusion of a festival. At the festivals of many Shinto shrines, the priests who carry the omikoshi wear white, linen robes just as the Israelite priests who carried the Ark did.  Is this all just mere coincidence, or was the design of omikoshi and the customs surrounding them possibly influenced by ancient contact with Israelites carrying the Ark of the Covenant?

To this day, it is not known where the Ark of the Covenant is, nor even any truly concrete evidence to show that it was ever even real. What is known is that as long as the allure and mystique of this great lost religious artifact remains, people will continue to search for it far and wide. Maybe, just maybe, it is hidden away in some dark, subterranean corridor beneath Japan’s Mt. Tsurugi, far from its native land and just as mysterious as ever.

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Egypt recovers 90 ancient artefacts on sale in Jerusalem…..

Cairo (AFP) – Egypt said Sunday that it has recovered 90 ancient artefacts that were put on sale by a Jerusalem auction house, and has asked Israel to find other antiquities and return them to Cairo.

The ministry of antiquities said it had asked Israeli authorities to intervene after “spotting in recent weeks a sale of 110 ancient Egyptian artefacts on the website of an auction house in Jerusalem”.

The auction house was unable to provide documents proving who owned the items and Israeli authorities banned the sale, the ministry said, ordering 90 of the 110 artefacts to be returned to Cairo.

Egypt “will ask the Israeli authorities to investigate and find pieces that have already been sold so they can be brought back to Egypt,” the ministry added.

Ali Ahmed, an official at Egypt’s department of antiquities, said several ancient Egyptian artefacts were reportedly seen in Israeli auctions and that Cairo had taken legal steps to recover the stolen items.

In October, the ministry said it had received an assurance from online auction site eBay that it would not sell artefacts that had been illegally taken out of Egypt.

During the 2011 uprising that toppled longterm ruler Hosni Mubarak, several museums were pillaged, including the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities near Cairo’s Tahrir square, epicentre of the demonstrations.

Other museums were attacked in the unrest that followed the military’s overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, and many items are still missing.egypt

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First Temple-Era Reservoir Found in Jerusalem…..

The 10th-century B.C. reservoir may have been used by pilgrims coming to the Temple Mount.
Archaeologists have found an ancient water reservoir in Jerusalem that may have been used by pilgrims coming to the Temple Mount, the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced.

The IAA said the cistern could have held 66,000 gallons (250 cubic meters) of water; it likely dates back to the era of the First Temple, which, according to the Hebrew Bible, was constructed by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. and then destroyed 400 years later.
Israeli archaeologists believe the reservoir served the general public in the ancient city, but say its location hints at a role in the religious life of Jerusalem.
“Presumably the large water reservoir, which is situated near the Temple Mount, was used for the everyday activities of the Temple Mount itself and also by the pilgrims who went up to the Temple and required water for bathing and drinking,” Tvika Tsuk, chief archaeologist of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority, said in a statement.

Excavation director Eli Shukron, with the IAA, said the reservoir also sheds new light on the extent of the public water system in Jerusalem hundreds of years ago.

“It is now absolutely clear that the Jerusalem’s water consumption during the First Temple period was not solely based on the output of the Gihon Spring, but that it also relied on public reservoirs,” Shukron said in a statement. The Gihon Spring was the main source of water for the city.
The reservoir was exposed during excavations on a massive drainage channel dating to the Second Temple period, according to the IAA. When that channel was constructed, its builders had to remove or cut through existing rock-hewn structures along the route, such as this reservoir.

Archaeologists with the IAA said they were able to estimate the age of the cistern based on signatures in its plaster treatment and its similarities with other First Temple reservoirs at sites such as Tel Be’er Sheva, Tel Arad and Tel Bet Shemesh.

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