World Coins

Who does the gold-coin hoard found in Israel belong to?

When divers come across a historic underwater hoard of gold coins in Israel, do they get to keep it?

Not legally. 

Antiquities like the nearly 2,000 11th century gold coins discovered recently in the ancient harbor of Israel's Caesarea National Park belong to the state, according to Kobi Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority. 

"The Law of Antiquities states that all antiquities belong to the state and that not reporting or removing antiquities from their location, or selling or trading them is an offense punishable by up to five years imprisonment," Sharvit said in a release from the IAA.

VIDEO: Recovery of underwater hoard of gold coins in Israel filmed

Often, Sharvit said, divers who come across such finds report them to nobody and take them home. The IAA official labeled the Caesarea National Park divers who first found the gold—Tzvika Feuer, Kobi Tweena, Avivit Fishler, Yoav Lavi and Yoel Miller—as "model citizens."

"They discovered the gold and have a heart of gold that loves the country and its history,” Sharvit said.

The divers, members of a local club, notified Sharvit's Marine Archaeology Unit after bringing a small number of coins to shore and realizing what they had come across. Divers of the IAA went together with the diving club members to where the coins were found and unearthed the rest using a metal detector.

"The discovery of the treasure underscores the need to combine the development of the place as a tourism and diving site with restrictions that will allow the public to dive there only when accompanied by inspectors or instructors from the diving club," Sharvit said. 

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