MARCH 1 2012 01:25h

Greek helmet discovered in Israeli harbor

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HAIFA, Israel, Feb. 29 (UPI) -- A Greek bronze helmet covered with gold leaf and decorations discovered in the waters of Haifa Bay in Israel has been dated to 2,600 years ago, researchers say.

Archaeologists said the helmet may have belonged to a wealthy Greek mercenary fighting in a series of wars mentioned in the Bible that plagued the region at that time.

The Greek mercenary likely fought for an Egyptian pharaoh named Necho II, they said.

The helmet, discovered accidentally in 2007 during commercial dredging operations in the harbor, has been cleaned and analyzed by researchers with the Israel Antiquities Authority, LiveScience.com reported Wednesday.

The helmet is very similar to one found near the Italian island of Giglio, about 1,500 miles away, in the 1950s and dated to 2,600 years ago, which helped the researchers arrive at a date for the Haifa Bay helmet.

The owner of the Haifa helmet would have been a very wealthy individual as few soldiers could afford such an ornate helmet, the researchers said.

"The gilding and figural ornaments make this one of the most ornate pieces of early Greek armor discovered," Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit with the Israel Antiquities Authority, wrote in a research summary.