900-year-old sword still has 'bend' from Holy Land war, X-ray reveals

Unearthed in 2021, the sword garnered global interest. Now, cutting-edge X-ray tech unveils fresh insights.
Sade Agard
The 'crusader's' sword was discovered during a diving expedition at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.
The 'crusader's' sword was discovered during a diving expedition at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.

Shlomi Katzin 

In a new study combining ancient DNA with modern tech, researchers reveal more about a Medieval sword unearthed in 2021, according to a recent paper published in Atiqot.

Covered in seashells and sand, this sword, discovered near Israel's Carmel coast at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, is now thought to have been dropped by a Crusader during a battle 800 to 900 years ago.

The Crusader's sword 

The sword's unearthing in 2021 by divers Raffi Bahalul, Shlomi Katzin, and Dr. Ehud Galili attracted global attention, with numerous media outlets reporting on the discovery. 

However, it was encrusted in a dense marine concretion composed of sand and shells, rendering its extraction without harm a challenging endeavor. 

Little did researchers know at the time was the concretion's silver lining; these very same crusts were slowing down the sword's oxidation process, thereby safeguarding it from rust-induced deterioration. 

Employing cutting-edge X-ray technology, researchers from the Isreal Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Soreq Nuclear Research Center were able to "visually penetrate the layers of marine concretion and glimpse the original outline of the sword," according to a Facebook post.

Jacob Sharvit from IAA said the sword's origins are tied to a Crusader warrior who resided in the region following the First Crusade's establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099. 

900-year-old sword still has 'bend' from Holy Land war, X-ray reveals
Crusader stock photo

X-ray scans unveiled a noticeable bend in the 88 centimeters (length) by 4.6 centimeters (width) blade, further supporting the notion of its battlefield involvement.

Given the historical backdrop of fierce battles between Crusaders and Muslims between A.D. 1095 and 1291, the sword's discovery offers a tangible connection to a turbulent era. 

"Considering the bloody battles that took place in the country between the Crusaders and the Muslims, known from several historical sources, we could expect to find more such swords. In practice, we mostly find fragments, very few whole swords," Sharvit added.

He highlighted that seven such swords from this period have been found in Isreal. While they were typically not discarded, many were eventually recycled as the need for them waned over time.

The art of science and history

This study sheds light not only on a single artifact but on the broader historical context of the Crusader Frankish period in Israel, which lasted less than two centuries. 

This period represented a significant chapter in Christianity, characterized by armed pilgrimages aimed at advancing Christianity's territorial interests.

The sword's retrieval attests to the importance of qualified archaeologists', who ensure the accurate documentation and preservation of such finds. 

In a broader sense, its journey from the depths of the sea to the forefront of historical inquiry underscores the powerful intersection of science and history.