'Priceless' Gold Coins Found in Record Israel Haul
Israeli diving club at first thought the coins were toy versions
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2015 7:10 AM CST
Israeli officials say the divers have a heart of gold to return the coins to the state.   (Carla Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

(Newser) – Many divers search long and hard for sunken treasure, but an Israeli diving club out for a recent dive in their local harbor struck literal gold by chance: 2,000 priceless gold coins that had been sitting on the seabed for about 1,000 years, the largest stash of gold ever found in Israel, reports the Jerusalem Post. The Israel Antiquities Authority says the coins appear to date back to between 909 and 1171, and that they're from North Africa and the Middle East. "There is probably a shipwreck there of an official treasury boat which was on its way to the central government in Egypt with taxes that had been collected," an IAA rep tells AFP. Another theory: The coins could have been to pay soldiers stationed at the local garrison.

Some of the coins show bite marks—indicating that they were at some point examined up close and personal for authenticity, notes AFP—but are otherwise in excellent condition. The divers at first thought the stash, found in the harbor at Caesarea National Park on Israel's Mediterranean coastline, was made up of toy coins, but they quickly reported the find when they realized it was the real deal. "They discovered the gold and have a heart of gold that loves the country and its history," says the IAA rep. But thanks and praise is all they get: No finder's fee, says the IAA. (Check out how much gold was found last year on a shipwreck dating back to 1857.)