A marble discus, which dates to the fifth-fourth century BCE, was found by David Shalom, a lifeguard, while diving in the antiquities site of Yavne-Yam, next to Palmahim beach. The lifeguard gave the discus to the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The white discus, which is flat on one side and convex on the other, measures 20 centimeters in diameter. In the middle of the discus are a perforation and the remains of two circles that are painted around the center of it. This object has been identified as representing the pupil of an eye that adorned the bow of an ancient warship or cargo ship. Its Greek name is ophtalmoi and a lead coupling or bronze nail that was driven through the hole in the center of the discus was used to attach the object to the hull of the ship.
According to Kobi Sharvit, the director of the Marine Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “We know from drawings on pottery vessels, pithoi and ancient coins, as well as from historic sources of the fifth century BCE that this model was very common on the bows of ships and was used to protect them from the evil eye and envy, and was meant as a navigation aid and to act as a pair of eyes which looked ahead and warned of danger. This decoration is also prevalent today on modern boats in Portugal, Malta, Greece and in the Far East.
Even though this item was common and one would expect that many such objects would be found, it is actually quite rare: to date we know of only four other such ancient artifacts that were discovered in the Mediterranean Sea. Two were recovered from ancient cargo shipwrecks (440-425 BCE) that were found along the western coast of Turkey between the islands of Samos and Chios at the site of Tektas Burnu and two items were recovered from the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel: one from the Carmel coast and the other which was just discovered at Yavne-Yam.