X-rays reveal that a Crusader sword found in Holy Land was bent, possibly in a naval battle.

New X-ray imaging of a Crusader sword discovered underwater off the coast of Israel shows that it was damaged during battle.

A sand-covered, shell-encrusted sword found on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea near Israel was likely dropped there by the Crusaders in battle 800 to 900 years ago, a new analysis reveals.

Divers discovered the bladed medieval weapon nearly 3 feet long and 1.8 inches wide in 2021 during an underwater expedition.

Because the sword was covered with dense concrete, archaeologists were initially limited in what they could learn about the artifact.

It is these hard deposits that also preserve the weapons.

Using X-rays, researchers were able to “penetrate the layers of marine concrete and glimpse the sword’s original appearance,” according to a July 23 Facebook post by the Israel Antiquities Authority. Swords damaged in battle could be refitted at a later date, so the fact that this 12th-13th century weapon – known as the Newe-Yam sword – remained folded and not in the sheath has led archaeologists to conclude that it was likely damaged during the Crusades, according to a new study published in the July issue of the journal ‘Atiqot.

The Crusades were a series of religious wars between Christians and Muslims that took place between 1095 and 1291.

The sword was seen during a diving expedition off the coast of Israel. 

(Image credit: Shlomi Katzin)

“The sword was wielded by a Crusader warrior who settled in the land after the First Crusade and established the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099,” said co-author Jacob Sharvit, director of the Department of Archeology. Hai IAA wrote in the Facebook post.

“Given the bloody battles taking place in the country between the Crusaders and the Muslims, known from several historical sources, one would expect to find more swords of this type. In fact, they are. I mainly found fragments, very few intact swords.”

He added: “So far, seven swords from this period have been found in the country, most of them found in the sea. Swords are not usually thrown away, but over the years, when they are no longer in use, the metal is recycled for other uses.”

Swords were considered valuable weapons at the time, and they would be among the Crusaders’ most valuable possessions.

Therefore, to lose a person at sea in a naval battle would be detrimental, even fatal.

Lead author Joppe Gosker, an archaeologist at the IAA, wrote in a Facebook post: “A sword is a piece of personal equipment worn by a knight or warrior.

“It was the main weapon in head-to-head combat at the time. Swords required a lot of quality iron and were therefore expensive. Furthermore, fencing requires training and practice, so only aristocrats and professional soldiers fight with swords.”

While scanning the seafloor near the sword’s resting place revealed no human remains, the researchers wouldn’t be surprised if the soldier was also buried there.

“The warrior may not yet be discovered in the depths, to be revealed someday by quicksand,” the researchers wrote in a Facebook post.  

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