Man finds 3,400-year-old Egyptian anchor during his morning swim

Rafi Bahalul found the artifact off the coast of Israel.

February 07, 2020, 8:54 AM

Rafi Bahalul was taking a morning swim off the shores of Atlit, Israel, when he spotted hieroglyphs in the seabed.

"I saw it, kept on swimming for a few meters, then realized what I had seen and dived down to touch it," Bahalul told Haaretz. "It was like entering an Egyptian temple at the bottom of the Mediterranean."

Bahalul had discovered a 3,400-year-old Egyptian stone anchor, confirmed by Jacob Sharvit, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority's maritime archaeology unit.

PHOTO: A Bronze Age Egyptian anchor handled by the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
A Bronze Age Egyptian anchor handled by the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Laura Lachman

The anchor is currently on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and is on display as part of its Emoglyphs: Picture-Writing from Hieroglyphs to the Emoji exhibition.

Emoglyphs is the study of the transformation of picture writing from Egyptian hieroglyphs, developed some 5,000 years ago, to the 'emojis' of the 21st Century.

Shirly Ben Dor Evian, curator of Emoglyphs, said the stone would have initially been part of a larger, ornate wall relief. Repurposed as an anchor, it was cut from the relief and drilled with a hole to attach a rope.

"The stone was discovered by chance -- spotted on the seabed by a swimmer," Ben Dor Evian told ABC News and said the relic is still being researched. "The Egyptian relief was reused as a stone anchor on a ship sailing the Mediterranean coast," she said.

PHOTO: Shirly Ben Dor Evian points to the hands of Seshat, the Egyptian deity of writing, on the stone anchor discovered off Atlit.
Shirly Ben Dor Evian points to the hands of Seshat, the Egyptian deity of writing, on the stone anchor discovered off Atlit.
Laura Lachman

Addressing the mystery of how the Egyptian relic was found off the coast of Israel, Ben Dor Evian proposed that it was separated from an Egyptian ship sailing the Mediterranean coast, perhaps lost in a shipwreck.

"The ship crew must have lost the anchor or the ship was shipwrecked," she said, adding that whether or not the anchor can contribute to a new understanding of ancient Egyptian life is "still under research."

PHOTO: The Emoglyphs exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is running until Oct. 12, 2020.
The Emoglyphs exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is running until Oct. 12, 2020.
Elie Posner

The site where Bahalul made the chance discovery, just south of Haifa, was already known to archaeologists, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Depicted on the stone are the hands of Seshat, the Goddess of Writing, Ben Dor Evian said. An accompanying inscription reads, "mistress of the house of books."

Emoglyphs will be showing until October 12th.

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