florin, a gold coin minted in Florence, Italy florin, a gold coin minted in Florence, Italy Florins have been copied in countries around the world. (Photo: Michal Artzy)

Archaeologists discover lost Crusader treasure

They found a shipwreck, gold coins and even an ancient order of knights.

Yo ho ho! There's booty off the coast of the Israeli city of Acre, free to anyone who can wrangle a crew, sail the Mediterranean and trick a bunch of archaeologists into giving it away.

Haifa University marine archaeologists, including Professor Michal Artzy and Dr. Ehud Galili, recently discovered a sunken 13th century Crusader ship. Well, the remnants of one. They uncovered the ship's keep, a bit of the hull and some wooden planks.

On board (well, as on board as possible, given that there weren't too many boards left) they found ceramic jugs and bowls that came from Cyprus and southern Italy. They also discovered nails, anchors ... and 30 gold coins called "florins" that had been minted in Italy in 1252. The Italian province of Florence, specifically, which is where the name "florin" comes from.

A marine archaeologist finding an anchor near Acre.A marine archaeologist finding an anchor near Acre. (Photo: Ehud Galili)

While this underwater discovery is pretty awesome in a piratey sort of way, a discovery they made on land might be even cooler. Another group of archaeologists working nearby found the headquarters of a monastic order called the "Teutonic Order," a group of knights who set up shop there. The knights' special emblem was all over the ceramics they uncovered.

“The Teutonic emblem ... basically takes two forms,” explained Adrian Boas, a Haifa University professor who led the land expedition. “It is either a triangular shield with a T inside, or a circle with a T, with the circle standing for Ordo and the T standing for Teutonicus – Teutonic Order. That more or less settled the location of the Teutonic headquarters."

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