Crusader-era Hand Grenade Among Archaeological Treasures a Dad Found in the Sea

Electric company worker found 3500-year-old knife bit, many artifacts over the years; now returned by family to State of Israel.

Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster
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This is the ancient hand grenade, hundreds of years old, found by Marcel Mazliah by the Hadera power station. Most believe artifacts like this were used like modern grenades, to toss fire or explosive material, for centuries. Some think they were more likely to be perfume pots.
The ancient hand grenade: Most believe these were used like modern grenades, to toss fire or explosive material, for centuries. Somethink they were perfume pots.Credit: Amir Gorzalczany, Israel Antiquities Authority
Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster

A family has turned over to the state a treasure of priceless antique artifacts found over years in the Mediterranean Sea by the father, who had worked for the Israel Electric Corporation. The oldest piece found by the late Marcel Mazliah is about 3,500 years old, says the Israel Antiquities Authority, which has promised to give the family a good-citizenship award.

One of the most striking artifacts Mazliah had hung onto is a beautifully decorated hand grenade, of a type commonly used during the Crusader, Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. The grenades of yore were quite like today's, being made of metal, though theirs were gorgeously embossed while today's are more likely to bear a serial number at best.

In any case, though the technology has changed over the centuries, the concept remains that you toss the thing at the enemy and it's supposed to blow up (or disseminate burning naphtha) then, not before. It bears adding that some experts suspect the so-called ancient grenades were more likely to contain perfume than deadly chemicals.

Anyway, the Mazliah family of Givatayim say that the father Marcel had worked at the seaside Hadera power station since its construction in 1973. During the years, he found a number of archaeological artifacts in the water.

Experts at the IAA suspect that at least most of the treasures Marcel Mazliah found were from shipwrecks.

Ancient finds that were retrieved from the sea and turned over to the Israel Antiquities Authority by the Mazliah family.Credit: Diego Barkan, Israel Antiquities Authority

"The finds include a toggle pin and the head of a knife from the Middle Bronze Age from more than 3,500 years ago," stated Ayala Lester, a curator with the Israel Antiquities Authority. "The other items, among them, two mortars and two pestles, fragments of candlesticks, and so on, date to the Fatimid period. The items were apparently manufactured in Syria and were brought to Israel."

Indeed, the seabed off Israel is awash in ancient artifacts. The sea level in the Mediterranean Sea is not believed to have appreciably changed in the last few thousand years, so the reason is apparently less that towns got drowned and more that land may disappear below the waves for any number of reasons. And of course, there have been shipwrecks, some with treasure, since man set sail. Last February, divers announced finding a horde of gold coins from the Fatimid era, about the 11th century CE, off the Caesarea beach, which is very near the Hadera power plant. The coins are assumed to also have come from a shipwreck. In 2014, a Gazan fisherman found a stunning statue of the Greek god Apollo, which is estimated to be 1,800 to 2,500 years old and which like the Mazliahs, he turned over to the authorities, in his case Hamas.

A toggle pin and head of a knife that date back about 3,500 years old, found in the sea by the Hadera power station by Marcel Mazliah.Credit: Diego Barkan, Israel Antiquities Authority
An Israel Antiquities Authority employee examining the finds. Credit: Amir Gorzalczany, Israel Antiquities Authority

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