Crusades: a treasure of 13th century gold coins found in a wreck dating from the fall of Acre


A wreck of the XIII th century has been unearthed in the Bay of Acre, on the northern coast of Israel. It could be a Crusader ship sunk during the capture of the city by the Mamluks in 1291.

The thirty gold pieces sparkled in the midst of fragments of hulls and old planks covered with ballast …

Underwater archaeologists have discovered the treasure resting in the waters of Israel for the last 700 years.

According to Ehud Galili and Michal Artzy, researchers of the University of Haifa the coins are from the time of the crusades.

The researchers believe the remains could have constituted the cargo of a wrecked ship that had on board Christian pilgrims fleeing Acre, when the city collapsed in 1291.

In an article published in the daily Haaretz on March 15, 2017 , these scientists recall that the Franks had reached the Acre region after the fall of the kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187, following the Saladin offensive (1174-1193 ), The first leader of the Ayyubid dynasty, in his reconquest of the Latin territories.

The wars of the Holy Land

„After gathering in Tire, where they were joined by the Third Crusade [Richard the Lion Heart and Philippe Auguste Frédéric Barberousse Ed], the Crusaders had recaptured Acre in 1190,“ explains Alain Demurger, the famous medievalist historian specialist Of the Crusades. Acre had thus become the capital of the Latin states, International trade center and refuge for all religious establishments. While the Ayyubid descendants of Saladin had gained a foothold in various surrounding principalities.

Then a coup in Cairo, Egypt, against the Ayyubid dynasty in 1250 suddenly destroyed the geopolitical balance of the region. The Mamluk – armed forces made up of former slaves captured in Central Asia (Caucasus, Eastern Russia, Turkestan) – took the power.

The new power aimed to drive out the crusaders from the Holy Land. It was first Tripoli, on the present Lebanese shore, which they conquered in 1289, followed by the march on Acre led by the Sultan of Egypt al-Ashraf Khalil, at the head of a powerful army of tens of thousands of men…


© Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authorities

In May 1291 the city, surrounded by a double network of walls, was taken.

The Christians then retreated to the coast. Desperate, to escape the assault, merchants and inhabitants rush to the boats present in the port, especially Italian ships destined for Cyprus. All these events take place as sea storms rage, resulting in many shipwrecks.

The recently discovered wreck could thus be one of these ships, as is proved by the gold florins recovered (the republic of Florence), which might have been used to monetize a passage.