Inspectors from the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, with assistance from detectives of the Haifa Police, conducted an operation in Haifa during which they seized dozens of archaeological finds from the home of one of the city’s residents who is suspected of having illegally removed them from the seabed.

Yesterday (Tuesday), equipped with a warrant, members of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery searched the home of a Jewish resident of the city of Haifa. This, after intelligence information was gathered indicating that the suspect intended to sell ancient archaeological items which divers allegedly and illegally removed from underwater antiquities sites in the northern region.

A large quantity of ancient coins and a number of bronze figurines, among them a molded bronze figurine of a woman, which is dated to the Roman period, circa two thousand years ago, were taken from the suspect’s home. Also confiscated were three anchors of ancient boats, one of metal and two of stone, as well as a number of ancient pottery, glass and bronze vessels. All of the items were seized as evidence.

Inspectors of the Israel Antiquities Authority were amazed to discover in the suspect’s home a large ceramic jar (over a meter high) that was preserved intact, and on it traces of marine encrustations and the remains of coral. This jar, which is a kind of amphora, was used to hold some of the boat’s cargo which apparently sank in the Mediterranean Sea in antiquity. The handle of the vessel bears a unique stamped impression in Greek script. The decipherment of this inscription is likely to shed light on where the cargo was sent from, what was the kind of cargo and most important of all in which year the incident occurred.

The suspect was questioned and admitted to the offenses ascribed to him, and in the coming days it will be decided if charges will be filed against him.

The Israel Antiquities Authority states that the removal of antiquties from the seabed is prohibited by law. According to Amir Ganor, director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “in any case it is forbidden for divers who happen to discover antiquities on the seabed to remove them from the sea. They should try to mark the location and report it immediately to the Antiquities Authority personnel. Diving for the purpose of taking antiquities from the shipwrecks on the seabed ruins any possibility of archaeological research and erases important historical evidence”.