A centuries-old ornate clay grenade was one of many artifacts discovered off of the coast of Hadera, near Haifa, and delivered to the Israel Antiquities Authority last week.
The items, many of which apparently fell overboard a merchant’s ship, were collected over decades by Marcel Mazliah, a power station worker in Hadera. Mazliah found the items washed up on the shore and stored them in his home over many decades. After he died recently, his family contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority to assess their value.
Among the other items were a toggle pin and the head of a knife from the Middle Bronze Age more then 3,500 years ago. There were also two mortars and pestles and parts of candlesticks from the Fatimid period in the 11th century. Similar items have been found off the coast of Caesarea.
According to Ayala Lester, a curator with the Israel Antiquities Authority, the items were made in Syria and brought to what is now present day Israel.
“The finds are evidence of the metal trade that was conducted during this period,” she said, according to an Israeli government press release.
The decorated clay hand grenade was apparently in use in the Holy Land during the Mamluk era from the 13th to 15th centuries.
According to Diego Barkan, an archaeologist with the Antiquities Authority, the grenade could have been a weapon that was filled with alcohol, lit on fire, and hurled at enemy ships. Since most ships were made of wood during the Mamluk era, 10 or 20 such grenades lobbed at a single ship could put it out of commission.
The grenade might not have been a weapon at all, but a decorative item filled with perfume.
According to Barkan, this particular grenade was not filled with any liquid when it was delivered to the Antiquities Authority.
Naomi Zeveloff is the Middle East correspondent of the Forward, primarily covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories.