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Gold coins uncovered in a buried potsherd at Apllonia National Park in Israel may be worth half a million dollars or more.

The coins may be worth $500,000 and are inscribed with blessings, names of sultans and more.

Israeli archaeologists have found buried treasure: more than 100 gold dinar coins from the time of the Crusades, bearing the names and legends of local sultans, blessings and more — and worth as much as $500,000.

The joint team from Tel Aviv University and Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority were working at Apollonia National Park, an ancient Roman settlement on the coast used by the Crusaders between 1241 and 1265, when they literally found a pot of gold.

“All in all, we found some 108 dinars and quarter dinars, which makes it one of the largest gold coin hoards discovered in a medieval site in the land of Israel,” Prof. Oren Tal, chairman of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology, told

The Christian order of the Knights Hospitaller had taken up residence in the castle in Apollonia; it was one of their most important fortresses in the area. The hoard of coins was buried on the eve of the site’s downfall after a long siege by a large and well-prepared Muslim army.

Since its destruction in late April 1265 it was never resettled. As the destruction of the well-fortified castle grew near, one of the Crusader’s leaders sought to hide his stash in a potsherd, possibly to retrieve it later on.

“It was in a small juglet, and it was partly broken. The idea was to put something broken in the ground and fill it with sand, in order to hide the gold coins within,” Tal told “If by chance somebody were to find the juglet, he won’t excavate it, he won’t look inside it to find the gold coins.”

“Once we started to sift it, the gold came out.”

The hoard of coins themselves — found on June 21, 2012, by Mati Johananoff, a student of TAU Department of Archaeology — date to the times of the Fatimid empire, which dominated northern Africa and parts of the Middle East at the time. Tal estimates their date to the 10th or 11th century, although they were circulated in the 13th century.

“Some were minted some 250 to 300 years before they were used by the Hospitaller knights,” he explained. The coins are covered in icons and inscriptions: the names and legends of local sultans, Tal said, as well as blessings.

Some also bear a date, and even a mint mark, a code that indicates where it was minted, whether Alexandria, Tripoli, or another ancient mint.

“Fatimid coins are very difficult to study because they are so informative,” Tal told “The legends are very long, the letters are sometimes difficult to decipher.”

The coins are clearly of great value, both historically and intrinsically, though putting a price tag on them is no easy feat: Value is a flexible thing, Tal explained. Israeli newspaper Haaretz pegged the find at $100,000. Tal noted that Fatmid Dinars sell for $3,000 to $5,000 apiece, meaning the stash could be worth closer to half a million.

Once his team has finished deciphering the coins and decoding their inscriptions, they will be transferred to a museum. But with such a valuable find, there’s already a quarrel between two archaeologically oriented museums over which will host them.

Tal said the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is in the running, as is the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.

“Both want the coins on display. It’s not for us to decide,” Tal said.


Ancient Hellenistic Harbor Found in Israel

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Ancient Hellenistic Harbor Found in Israel

Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News
Date: 18 July 2012 Time: 11:03 AM ET
A member of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority standing on the ancient quay that was exposed in Akko. In the middle of the picture one can see the floor of the quay, built of large dressed stones.
CREDIT: Kobi Sharvit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority. 

The remains of a magnificent ancient harbor have emerged from a dig in Akko (Acre), a city at the northern tip of Haifa Bay in Israel.

Dating back to the Hellenistic period (third-second centuries BC), the port was Israel’s largest and most important at the time.

Archaeologists at the Israel Antiquities Authority made the discovery as they unearthed large mooring stones that were incorporated in the quay. They were used to secure sailing vessels that anchored in the harbor about 2,300 years ago.

In some of the stones the archaeologists found a hole for inserting a wooden pole -– probably for mooring and/or dragging the boat.

This was most likely a military harbor, according to Kobi Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority,

Mooring Rock
A mooring stone that was incorporated in the quay. There was a hole in the stone in which the mooring/anchoring rope was inserted.
CREDIT: Kobi Sharvit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

“A find was uncovered recently that suggests we are excavating part of the military port of Akko. We are talking about an impressive section of stone pavement about 8 meters long by about 5 meters wide,” Sharvit said.

Delineated on both sides by two impressive stone walls built in the Phoenician manner, the floor sloped slightly toward the south. The archaeologists found a small amount of stone collapse in its center.

“Presumably this is a slipway, an installation that was used for lifting boats onto the shore, probably warships in this case,” Sharvit said.

“Only further archaeological excavations will corroborate or invalidate this theory,” he added.

Pottery Shells Hellenic Harbor
An imported bowl characteristic of the Hellenistic period. The bowl was found in a layer of harbor sludge. This layer contained thousands of intact pottery vessels, potsherds, etc.
CREDIT: Kobi Sharvit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Along with the mooring stones, the archaeologists found thousands of pottery fragments, among which are dozens of intact vessels and metallic objects.

Preliminary identification indicates that many of them come from islands in the Aegean Sea, including Knidos, Rhodes, Kos and others, as well as other port cities located along the Mediterranean coast.

The dig also uncovered a mound of collapsed large dressed stones that apparently belonged to major buildings or installations.

“What emerges from these finds is a clear picture of systematic and deliberate destruction of the port facilities that occurred in antiquity,” Sharvit said.

He added that the excavation will continue in the attempt to to clarify if there is a connection between the destruction in the harbor and the destruction wrought by Ptolemy in 312 BC. , or by some other event such as the Hasmonean revolt in 167 B.

This story was provided by Discovery News.

Dark Waters: The Most Mysterious Places on the Seas

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Dark Waters: The Most Mysterious Places on the Seas

By: Remy Melina, Life’s Little Mysteries Staff Writer
A shipwreck off the coast of Bermuda, inside the Bermuda triangle.
Credit: doctorjools | dreamstime

The Bermuda Triangle is infamous for making sea vessels mysteriously disappear, but it’s not the only body of water with dark secrets and seemingly paranormal activity. There are a few other nautical locations where vessels’ crews have been known to inexplicably vanish without a trace.

The Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle, a region of the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean defined by points in Bermuda, Florida and Puerto Rico, has a long-standing reputation for mysteriously swallowing boats, ships and even airplanes. Some people even claim that it contains a wormhole into another dimension, while others believe that the area is a UFO hotspot and that aliens are abducting the lost sea vessels.

The area first attracted attention in December, 1945, when five United States Navy planes vanished during a training exercise. Before losing radio contact and disappearing somewhere off the coast of southern Florida, the flight leader was reportedly heard saying: “We are entering white water, nothing seems right.”

The Sargasso Sea

The only “sea” without shores, the Sargasso Sea is a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean that issurrounded by ocean currents . These currents deposit marine plants and garbage into the Sargasso Sea, causing it to be full of Sargassum, a genus of dense, brown, invasive seaweed. Because of the seaweed buildup and the isolation created by the currents, the sea remains eerily warm and calm, despite being surrounded by the freezing and choppy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

This eerie calmness contributes to the area’s mystery, as several ships have been found drifting crewless through its peaceful waters. In 1840, the French merchant ship Rosalie sailed through the Sargasso Sea and was later discovered with its sails set but without any crew members on board.

In an effort to explain the mysterious disappearances, nineteenth-century lore told of the Sargasso Sea’s carnivorous seaweed, which was believed to devour sailors whole, leaving only the ship.

The 14 men in the planes were never heard from again. Even spookier, a search-and-rescue aircraft with 13 men onboard was dispatched to locate the missing planes, but that aircraft and its passengers also inexplicably disappeared. Ever since, the disappearances of vessels in the area, including the SS Marine Sulphur Queen, a tanker carrying a crew of 39 in 1963, and the collier USS Cyclops with 309 crewmen in 1918, have been blamed on the Bermuda Triangle.

The “Devil’s Sea” of Japan

The Devil’s Sea, also known as the Pacific Bermuda Triangle, is a region of the Pacific around Miyake Island, about 60 miles south of Tokyo. The area is also known as the Dragon’s Triangle because of ancient legends about dragons that lived off the coast of Japan.

During the late 1980s, author Charles Berlitz wrote the book “The Dragon’s Triangle” about paranormal phenomena that he believed occurred in the Devil’s Sea. He wrote that after Japan lost five military vessels with carrying a total of more than 700 sailors during the peacetime years between 1952 and ’54, the area was officially declared a danger zone. Investigations into Berlitz’s claims later found that the military vessels were actually fishing vessels, some of which had vanished outside of the Devil’s Sea.

Additionally, investigators pointed out that during the time period that the ships went missing, hundreds of fishing boats were lost around Japan every year due to weather conditions and piracy — not because of supernatural activity or mythical sea dragons. But the Devil’s Sea’s reputation as a dangerous and eerie area lives on.

The Michigan Triangle

The Michigan Triangle is found in Lake Michigan, whose shoreline spans the states of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. Located over central Lake Michigan, the area has been blamed for the mysterious disappearances of ships’ crew members and entire airplanes. Some have reported that while sailing over the Michigan Triangle, time seemed to stand still, slow to a crawl, or speed up.

In 1937, the disappearance of Captain George Donner from his boat cemented the Michigan Triangle’s status as a strange place. During a routine coal delivery, Donner gave his crew orders to wake him when the ship drew into port. When they came to his freighter cabin three hours later, Donner had vanished — despite the fact that his cabin door was locked from the inside.

In 1950, the Northwest Airlines Flight 2501 disappeared as it flew over the Michigan Triangle on its way from Seattle to New York City. With 58 people on board, the plane seemed to vanish into thin air, and neither the plane nor any passengers were ever found, despite a thorough search by the Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates.

Where Is the Literal ‘Middle’ of the Ocean?

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Where Is the Literal ‘Middle’ of the Ocean?

By: Life’s Little Mysteries Staff
Date: 19 July 2012 Time: 11:52 AM ET

The farthest point from dry land floats exactly where you would expect: smack dab in the middle of the South Pacific. Called Point Nemo after the submarine captain in Jules Vernes classic novel, “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” it marks the center of an empty blue circle about the size of North America. But how in the world was this spot found?

Considering all the islands that sprinkle Earth’s seas, and the continent’s chaotic coastlines, there was no conceivable way to locate the literal “middle of the ocean” until modern times, with the help of GPS satellites and computers.

In 1992, a Croatian-Canadian survey engineer named Hrvoje Lukatela used a geospatial program of his own design, called Hipparchus, to find Point Nemo. He did so by noting that because Earth’s surface is three-dimensional, its remotest ocean point must sit the same distance away from three nearest coastlines; the Hipparchus program identified the ocean coordinate that was farthest from three other equidistant land coordinates.

Point Nemo, at coordinates 48°52.6′ south, 123°23.6′ west, lies 1,670 miles (2688 kilometers) from a trio of land dots: Ducie Island to the north, an uninhabited atoll in the Pitcairn Islands; Motu Nui to the northeast, a tiny islet off Easter Island, which is off the coast of Chile; and frigid Maher Island to the south, off the Antarctic coast.

According to Ken Jennings at The Daily Traveler, the word  Nemo comes from the Latin for “nobody”; fitting, he said, as it’s quite possible Point Nemo “has never had a single visitor.”

Elusive Snow Leopards Collared for Science

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Elusive Snow Leopards Collared for Science

OurAmazingPlanet Staff – Jul 17, 2012 03:00 PM ET

Scientists have outfitted two snow leopards in a wild corner of Afghanistan with satellite-tracking collars, a first for the country and a boon for researchers trying to better understand the habits and favored habitats of the endangered cats.

The snow leopards, both male, were captured in Afghanistan’s northeastern Wakhan Corridor, a narrow strip of desolate, windswept mountains sandwiched between Pakistan and Tajikistan, and a spot where camera traps first snapped the elusive cats in 2011.

The first snow leopard was captured and released on May 27, the second on June 8

Researchers weighed and measured the

animals, took DNA samples and fitted them with satellite collars before sending them on their way.

In the intervening weeks, the first cat has traveled more than 78 miles (125 kilometers) and the second cat has traveled more than 95 miles (153 km), according to a statement from the Wildlife Conservation Society, one of the main participants in the field work.

A film crew from Nat Geo WILD was on hand to document the research, for a film that is slated to air in December.

Snow leopards make their homes in the harsh, rugged mountain regions of 12 Asian nations, yet despite their wide range and impressive survival skills, the spotted cats’ numbers are dwindling. The species has declined by as much as 20 percent in the last 16 years, and only 3,000 to 7,500 individuals remain in the wild, according to population estimates.

Officials with the WCS lauded the recent capture and tracking of the Afghan snow leopards as a milestone in the fight to save the big cats.

“The information garnered from the tagging will assist researchers as they learn more about the range, behavior, movements and habitat used by snow leopards,” Peter Zahler, WCS’s deputy director of Asia Programs, said in a statement.

That information will be shared with the Afghan government and local communities to design protected areas and improve conservation strategies in the country, he said.

The announcement comes on the heels of other encouraging snow leopard news from Mongolia. For the first time ever, researchers uncovered a snow leopard den in that country, and caught a mother and two tiny snow leopard cubs on video.

Whale Shark Learns to Suck Fish Out of Fishing Nets

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 Whale Shark Learns to Suck Fish Out of Fishing Nets

By: Nina Sen, Life’s Little Mysteries Contributor
Date: 18 July 2012 Time: 10:05 AM ET
Whale sharks have found a novel new way to get their dinner. Conservation International’s Mark Erdmann found the creatures suck fish out through the holes in large fishing nets. These large nets are used at fishing platforms by commercial fisherman. In the video, you can see the shark sucking out tiny silverside baitfish from a fishing platform in Indonesia’s Cendrwasih Bay.