Interesting item from the National Oceanography Centre (UK)/University of Southampton:
Known as the Belgammel Ram, the 20kg artefact was discovered by a group of British divers off the coast of Libya near Tobruk in 1964. The ram is from a small Greek or Roman warship – a “tesseraria”. These ships were equipped with massive bronze rams on the bow at the waterline and were used for ramming the side timbers of enemy ships. At 65cm long, the Belgammel Ram is smaller in size and would have been sited on the upper level on the bow. This second ram is known as a proembolion, which strengthened the bow and also served to break the oars of an enemy ship.
Leading marine archaeologist, Dr Nic Flemming a visiting fellow of the National Oceanography Centre, co-ordinated a team of specialists from five institutes to analyse the artefact before it was returned to the National Museum in Tripoli in May 2010. Their results have been published in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.
Dr Flemming said: “Casting a large alloy object weighing more than 20kg is not easy. To find out how it was done we needed specialists who could analyse the mix of metals in the alloys; experts who could study the internal crystal structure and the distribution of gas bubbles; and scholars who could examine the classical literature and other known examples of bronze castings.
“Although the Belgammel Ram was probably the first one ever found, other rams have since been found off the coast of Israel and off western Sicily. We have built a body of expertise and techniques that will help with future studies of these objects and improve the accuracy of past analysis.”
Dr Chris Hunt and Annita Antoniadou of Queen’s University Belfast used radiocarbon dating of burnt wood found inside the ram to date it to between 100 BC to 100 AD. This date is consistent with the decorative style of the tridents and bird motive on the top of the ram, which were revealed in detail by laser-scanned images taken by archaeologist Dr Jon Adams of the University of Southampton.
It is possible that during its early history the bronze would have been remelted and mixed with other bronze on one or more occasions, perhaps when a warship was repaired or maybe captured.
The X-ray team produced a 3-D image of the ram’s internal structure using a machine capable of generating X-rays of 10 mevs to shine through 15cm of solid bronze. By rotating the ram on a turntable and making 360 images they created a complete 3-D replica of the ram similar to a medical CT scan. An animation of the X-rays has been put together by Dr Richard Boardman of m-VIS (mu-VIS), a dedicated centre for computed tomography (CT) at the University of Southampton.
Further analysis was carried out by geochemists Professor Ian Croudace, Dr Rex Taylor and Dr Richard Pearce at the University of Southampton Ocean and Earth Science (based at the National Oceanography Centre). Micro-drilled samples show that the composition of the bronze was 87 per cent copper, 6 per cent tin and 7 per cent lead. The concentrations of the different metals vary throughout the casting. Scanning Electron Microscopy, SEM, reveals that the lead was not dissolved with the other metals to make a composite alloy but that it had separated out into segregated intergranular blobs within the alloy as the metal cooled.
These results indicate the likelihood that the Belgammel Ram was cast in one piece and cooled as a single object. The thicker parts cooled more slowly than the thin parts so that the crystal structure and number of bubbles trapped in the metal varies from place to place.
The isotope characterisation of the lead component found in the bronze (an alloy of copper and tin) can be used as a fingerprint to reveal the origin of the lead ore used in making the metal alloy. Up until now, this approach has only provided a general location in the Mediterranean. But recent advances in the analysis technique means that the location can be identified with higher accuracy. The result shows that the lead component of the metal could have come from a district of Attica in Greece called Lavrion. An outcome of this improved technique means that the method can now be applied to other ancient metal artefacts to discover where the ore was sourced.
Micro-X-Ray fluorescence of the surface showed that corrosion by seawater had dissolved out some of the copper leaving it richer in tin and lead. It is significant that when comparing photographs from 1964 and 2008 there is no indication of change in the surface texture. This implies that the metal is stable and is not suffering from “Bronze Disease,” a corrosion process that can destroy bronze artefacts.
The Belgammel Ram was found by a group of three British service sports divers off the coast of Libya at the mouth of a valley called Waddi Belgammel, near Tobruk. Using a rubber dinghy and rope they dragged it 25 metres to the surface. It was brought home to the UK as a souvenir but when the divers discovered that it was a rare antiquity, the ram was loaned to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Ken Oliver is the only surviving member of that group of three and the effective owner. He decided in 2007 that is should be returned to a museum in Libya. With the help of the British Society for Libyan Studies this was arranged in 2010. During the intervening period Dr Nic Flemming invited experts to undertake scientific investigations prior to its return to Libya. These services were offered freely and would have cost many tens of thousands of pounds if conducted commercially. The team’s objective was to understand how such a large bronze was cast, the history and composition of the alloy, its strength, how it was used in naval warfare, and how it survived 2,000 years under the sea.
Since the Belgammel Ram was discovered, other rams have been found, some off the coast of Israel near Athlit, and more recently, off western Sicily. The latter finds look to be the remains of a battle site. On 8 April there is a one-day colloquium hosted by the Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford, to discuss the finds of the Egadi Islands Project.
Nic Flemming continued: “We have learned such a huge amount from the Belgammel Ram and have developed new techniques which will help us unpick future mysteries.
“We will never know why the Belgammel Ram was on the seabed near Tobruk. There may have been a battle in the area, a skirmish with pirates. It could be that it was cargo from an ancient commercial vessel, about to be sold as salvage. The fragments of wood inside the ram show signs of fire, and we now know that parts of the bronze had been heated to a high temperature since it was cast which caused the crystal structure to change. The ship may have caught fire and the ram fell into the sea as the flames licked towards it. Some things will always remain a mystery. But we are pleased that we have gleaned so many details from this study that will help future work.”
The Libyan uprising of 2011 resulted in many battles in the area around the museum. Fortunately the museum suffered no damage. The Belgammel Ram is safe.
- via: Bronze warship ram reveals secrets (NOC)
Additional coverage worth checking out:
- Warship’s ram reveals how ancient Greeks made weapons (New Scientist ~ photos)
Folks seeking comparanda might want to check out the articles/coverage associated with the Acqualadrone ram:
A bit vague … from Greek Reporter:
A series of important archaeological findings has gradually been unearthed by the sunken submarine research in the Heraklion port located in ancient Egypt, the last years, according to announcements made at an international scientific conference at the University of Oxford.
The coastal city on the delta of the Nile, called Heraklion by Greeks, and Thomis by Egyptians, was an important gateway to Egypt during the first millennium BC, while now having sunk, it is located approximately 6.5 km from the coast. According to the latest evidence, before the founding of Alexandria, it was one of the greatest commercial hubs in the Mediterranean.
Researchers of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology (OCMA), in collaboration with the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) and the Department of Antiquities of Egypt have been conducting underwater researches in the region since 2000, and every year new data comes to light.
‘Surveys have revealed a huge submerged landscape with remains of at least two major ancient settlements in a part of the Nile, where natural and artificial navigable channels intersected’ Dr. Damien Robinson, director of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology said.
Excavations in the Heraklion area have brought to light many findings including, as stated by the researcher of Oxford, Elizabeth van der Vilt, weights from ancient Athens.
Another Oxford researcher, Sandra Heids, has examined more than 300 statues and amulets, dating from the Late and Ptolemaic period depicting Egyptian and Greek figures. Like the ships, these findings have also been maintained in excellent condition and most of them depict deities such as Osiris, Isis and Horus.
According to the researchers, such statuettes and amulets were massively produced, mostly for Egyptians, though several of them were purchased by foreign visitors as well (traders, etc), who used to devote them to several churches in their countries.
- via: Key Finds at Egypt’s Heraklion (Greek Reporter)
… the conference was a week or so ago; perhaps we’ll be hearing more …
Jo Marchant has written another piece for the Guardian (confusingly, with the same title as a previous piece) detailing a bit more what they hope to find … in medias res:
[...] For centuries Antikythera was in a busy shipping lane, but surprisingly its treacherous underwater cliffs and reefs are not littered with sunken ships (perhaps those ancient navigators were more skilled than we thought). And there are no obvious signs of a wreck at the site supposedly excavated by Cousteau, suggesting that he recovered all of the visible items there – or that he planted some of his finds for the cameras.
But 200 metres away, the divers found artefacts spread across the rocky sea floor, on a steep slope between 35 and 60 metres deep.
The largest item recovered was a huge lead anchor stock. It was lying on a semicircular object that might be a scupper pipe, used to drain water from the ship’s deck. If so, the ship may have gone down as she was sailing with the anchor stowed. The team also raised an intact storage jar (amphora), which matches those previously recovered from the wreck. DNA tests may reveal its original contents.
Most intriguing are dozens of irregular spherical objects sprinkled across the wreck site. They look like rocks but contain flecks of green, suggesting small bronze fragments, corroded and encrusted in sediment after thousands of years in the sea. This is just what the Antikythera mechanism looked like when it was discovered. Then again, they could be collections of ship’s nails.
Because the artefacts the team found are a short distance from the site investigated by Cousteau, it’s possible that they belong to a second ship from around the same date as the original wreck, perhaps part of the same fleet. But Foley thinks it more likely that all of the remains come from one vessel that broke up as it sank.
To confirm this, he hopes to revisit the site later this year. He wants to use metal detectors to map the distribution of metal and ceramic objects buried beneath the surface, as well as dig a few test trenches. “I’m intensely curious about what’s in the sediments,” he says. [...].
- via: Return to Antikythera: what divers discovered in the deep (Guardian)
cf. our previous coverage on Foley’s work … it includes a link to Marchant’s previous item: Returning to Antikythera
USA Today has some hype for Brendan Foley’s AIA paper today, including this tantalizing paragraph:
[...] Along with vase-like amphora vessels, pottery shards and roof tiles, Foley says, the wreck also appears to have “dozens” of calcified objects resembling compacted boulders made out of hardened sand resting atop the amphorae on the sea bottom. Those boulders resemble the Antikythera mechanism before its recovery and restoration. In 2006, an X-ray tomography team reported that the mechanism contained at least 30 hand-cut bronze gears re-creating astronomical cycles useful in horoscopes and timing of the Olympic Games in the ancient world, the most elaborate mechanical device known from antiquity until the Middle Ages. “The (objects) may just be collections of bronze nails, but we won’t know until someone takes a look at them,” Foley says. [...]
- via: Famed Roman shipwreck reveals more secrets (USA Today)
… would be nice if some of the twitterati gave this some coverage …
According to the Greek Reporter, there are at least some coins (?):
The underwater shipwreck excavation of the wreck of the ship Mentor, that sank off the island of Kythera in 1802 while carrying goods plundered from the Parthenon by British diplomat Lord Elgin has proved to be a treasure trove of personal items from the passengers and crew.
A greater number of coins were also found, at least two ancient silver coins which were antiquities acquired by Elgin, passengers or the crew,along with two gold coins, used as currency at the time, from the late 1700’s. Other coins were also recovered but require conservation before they can be identified. Some of these may also be ancient.
Finding three ancient coins on the wreck last year created international news, prompting a question about what other antiquities Elgin was transporting, in addition to crates of Parthenon marbles and sculptures. There may be even more questions from this year’s finds, after conservation of currently unidentified coins is completed.
Another pistol was recovered, a fob (pocket) watch, personal seal with a cannon on it and gold chain, a pipe, ring, part of navigation instruments, bottles, musket balls, cannon balls, crockery and ceramics possibly from the galley (kitchen) area. The Mentor was a small Brig, carrying 16 crates of Parthenon sculptures and a marble throne, en-route to Malta and then the United Kingdom.
Diaries from the time reveal that the Parthenon sculptures and marble throne were recovered by sponge divers from Simi and Kalymnos in 1802-1804 but it’s unknown what else remains buried on the bottom of the sea, near Avlemonas.
Dimitris Kourkoumelis, an archaeologist in Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities is going to give a speech on Nov. 26 in the auditorium of the National Archaeological Museum on the Mentor Shipwreck at Kythera, will be held on the occasion of the lecture program organized by the Association of Friends of National Archaeological Museum.
- via: Greek Antiquities Found On Mentor Shipwreck (Greek Reporter)
From the English edition of the Gazzetta del Sud:
Two ancient Roman shipwrecks, complete with their cargo, have been discovered by Italian archaeologists off the coast of Turkey near the the ancient Roman city of Elaiussa Sebaste. The ships, one dating from the Roman Imperial period and the other from about the sixth century AD, have been found with cargoes of amphorae and marble, say researchers from the Italian Archaeological Mission of Rome’s University La Sapienza. Both ships were discovered near Elaiussa Sebaste, on the Aegean coast of Turkey near Mersin, according to a statement issued by the Italian embassy in Ankara. Officials say the discoveries – led by Italian archaeologist Eugenia Equini Schneider – confirm the important role Elaiussa Sebaste played within the main sea routes between Syria, Egypt, and the Anatolian peninsula from the days of Augustus until the early Byzantine period. Elaiussa, meaning olive, was founded in the 2nd century BC on a tiny island attached to the mainland by a narrow isthmus in the Mediterranean Sea. Schneider has been leading the excavations since 1995.
- via: Italian archaeologists find 2 sunken Roman ships off Turkey (Gazzetta del Sud)
There were other finds (not underwater) earlier in the month: Roman Bath From Elaissua Sebaste
This is one which I tried to report about a year ago (when it was originally discovered) but the link went kablooey on me … so technically this is an update of something which you might have seen in Explorator last year, but I couldn’t get it into rogueclassicism, so we have a bit of a lacuna in the reportage … in any event, from the Cyprus Mail:
LATEST underwater excavations on the 2,350-year-old Mazotos shipwreck have established that the keel, and at least 15 metres of the ancient vessel’s planking has been preserved, the Antiquities Department said yesterday.
“This is of prime importance, as it places this wreck among the very few in the Mediterranean that can provide information on shipbuilding during the Classical period,” an announcement said.
It also said that during this year’s excavations archaeologists were also able to shed some new light on trade in antiquity, another important domain of maritime archaeology.
“Together with the Chian wine amphorae, the ship’s main cargo, a secondary type was also transported on the Mazotos ship: wine jugs, which were stowed among the amphorae found in the aft part of the hold. Furthermore, small fine ware pottery was recovered from the stern cabin, which was also partly excavated,” the department said.
It added that the vessels must have belonged to the crew or the passengers. One of them bears two inscribed letters, most probably the initials of someone’s name, it said.
The Mazotos shipwreck, some 14 nautical miles southwest of Larnaca, is possibly the largest ancient commercial shipwreck located in open Cypriot waters. It sank in 350 BC en route from the Greek island of Chios carrying around 1,000 urns filled with wine said to have been the most expensive Greek wine of the Classical period. Today the wreck is buried 45 metres below sea level and is the oldest shipwreck found off the coast of the island to date. The Kyrenia II shipwreck, found 50 years ago, dates back to 300 BC.
Underwater excavations on the wreck began in November 2007 after the ship was discovered by divers a year earlier.
This year’s excavations were conducted by the Archaeological Research Unit of the University of Cyprus, under the direction of Dr Stella Demesticha, in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus and the THETIS Foundation.
All materials recovered were transported to the dedicated lab for underwater finds in the Archaeological Museum of Larnaca, where they will remain for desalination and conservation, both undertaken by the Department of Antiquities.
Fifteen graduate and postgraduate students from the University of Cyprus took part in the project, together with 45 maritime archaeologists and divers from Cyprus and 11 other countries: Greece, Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Spain, Poland, Croatia, Finland, Australia and USA.
- via: Mazotos wreck could shed light on ancient shipbuilding (Cyprus Mail)
… despite my intro, for some background:
- The 4th-Century-BC Mazotos Shipwreck, Cyprus: a preliminary report (IJNA)
- Platt Fellow at the Mazotos Shipwreck Excavation, Cyprus (ASOR blog)
… and from us way back in 2008:
We mentioned this one last week when most of the coverage was in French … the story finally did hit the English papers, e.g., the Guardian (which picked up coverage from Le Monde)
It looks like the rib cage of a large marine mammal, whose bones turned black as it was fossilised. The wreck was discovered in May during a dig in Antibes, on the French Riviera, prior to construction of a car park on the site of the Roman port of Antipolis.
Archaeologists have gradually uncovered a 15-metre length of hull and structural timbers, in “exceptional” condition, according to Giulia Boetto, a specialist in ship design at Aix-Marseille University who is involved in the dig. Saw and adze marks are still visible on the wood. Luckily the ground in which it was found is always waterlogged so this prevented the timber from rotting and decomposing.
Sprinklers have kept the hull and its structure moist since its discovery. “Otherwise, in just a few weeks we would lose everything,” says Isabelle Daveau, an archaeologist at France’s Rescue Archaeology Research Institute (Inrap) and head of the project.
The ship – a merchant vessel from the imperial period – was probably about 22 metres long and six or seven metres across. It is thought to have sunk in the second or third century in the port at Antipolis. “It has a typical Graeco-Roman flat-bottomed design,” Boetto says, with a hold three metres deep and a square sail to drive it, suspended from a mast, which has not been found.
The archaeologists have made some touching discoveries, including a little 15-centimetre brush that must have been dropped by a shipwright busy caulking the hull. It most likely fell through a gap between the floor of the hold and the outer shell, only to be discovered 19 centuries later.
“A ship like this could carry a cargo of up to about 100 tonnes,” Boetto says. This may seem a lot, but it is well below the tonnage reached by other vessels. “At the time, the boats transporting Egyptian corn back to Rome could be as long as 40 to 50 metres, loaded with up to 400 tonnes of grain,” she adds.
The remains of the ship, which will be donated to Antibes by the state, will be dismantled and the timber treated for lasting conservation. “Just the process of treating the timber will take two years,” says Jean-Louis Andral, head of the Antibes museum. “Then the wreck will be reconstituted and set up in a centre for study and preservation, where it can also be seen by the general public.” It should be ready in three or four years.
How did the ship come to be lying at a depth of barely two metres in the port of Antibes? “We can’t be absolutely sure, but it’s possible, as sometimes happened, that it was deliberately scuttled to serve as a landing stage,” Daveau suggests. “It may also have been swamped by a freak wave.”
Another possible explanation is that it sank at its mooring, but this seems unlikely. Nowhere on the section of the vessel that has been uncovered have archaeologists found any signs of repairs, suggesting that it was not particularly old when it sank. In due course the timber itself will be properly dated.
The team of 20 or so archaeologists working on the dig have found no evidence of any cargo. When a ship went down, efforts would be made to salvage as much as possible. “At a depth of less than two metres it would have been fairly easy to raise goods,” Boetto says. “On the Roman shipwreck discovered in the 1970s off Madrague de Giens, at a depth of 20 metres, part of the cargo had been recovered.”
At the time underwater excavation of the great wreck, led by maritime archaeologists André Tchernia and Patrice Pomey, revealed gaps in the cargo. Heavy stones had been placed alongside the missing amphorae. It is thought that they were used to weight the divers who specialised in salvaging ship-wrecked goods. Such divers were often mentioned in ancient texts but the Madrague de Giens wreck provided the first material proof of their activity and daring.
In excavating the 5,000-square-metre site the archaeologists have uncovered more than just the remains of the vessel. The floor of the old Roman port holds a remarkable record of the diversity of sea trade between the late fourth and early sixth centuries, including amphorae dropped in the water during unloading, damaged crockery thrown overboard and the soles of leather shoes.
It is also testimony to far-reaching trade in the Mediterranean. Goods from so many different regions converged on Antipolis that “we often discover unknown objects from indeterminate sources”, Daveau says. Some finds reveal the identity of their owner. Here, for instance, is a ceramic bowl marked Rutili, probably the name of a sailor who dropped it in the water because it was broken or chipped.
Such finds are particularly valuable in the eyes of Inrap researchers as nine-tenths of the port was destroyed in the 1970s by the construction of a modern marina. In those days there was still no legislation requiring a preventive rescue dig.
All the excavated material will be kept and made available to the scientific community in appropriate premises adjoining the hall where the wreck will be on display. “We have found large numbers of amphorae from Italy and Marseille, dating back to the port’s earliest period,” says archaeologist Robert Thernot. “Then, as time passed, there were more and more items from North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean.” This suggests that the main centres of production shifted, just as is happening now with Asia’s growing importance and Europe’s industrial decline.
The cargo that the ship brought to Antipolis will probably remain a mystery but the odds are high that it would have sailed away loaded with garum, a fermented fish sauce that contributed to the prosperity and fame of the city for several centuries.
The article includes a photo of the ship …
This just in from ANSA:
Archaeologists are investigating the discovery of a gilded bronze lion found off the coast of Calabria not far from where the famed Riace Bronzes were discovered 40 years ago.
Armour in bronze and copper was also found by a diver and two tourists in the area that is now closed to the public as investigators probe the details of the find.
One of the divers who made the discovery said there may be a ship and other important artifacts there as well.
“When I went into the water, I saw a statue that was stuck between the rocks and a piece of the ship,” explained Bruno Bruzzaniti.
“The tides, however, cover everything and then you must be really fortunate to be able to see other items that are still at the bottom of the sea.” The discovery sounds similar to that of the iconic Riace Bronzes, 2,500-year-old statues representing ancient warriors which were discovered in 1972 by a Roman holidaymaker scuba diving off the Calabrian coast.
That find turned out to be one of Italy’s most important archaeological discoveries in the last 100 years.
Those statues are of two virile men, presumably warriors or gods, who possibly held lances and shields at one time. At around two metres, they are larger than life.
The newly discovered bronze lion is said to be about 50 centimetres high and weighs 15 kilograms. Also found in the area of the lion were remains of vases and other statues.
An early hypothesis suggests that all these newly found items were aboard a ship that sank just off the Calabrian coast.
However, it’s up to experts in the Cultural Heritage department to determine the precise age of the artifacts and piece together what happened that left the objects strewn around the sea bed.
“We think these are pieces of value and the important thing is that they be safeguarded and protected,” said Bruzzaniti. “It’s a great discovery for the whole of Calabria.” It’s believed the discovery was made last week, but authorities say they weren’t informed until Monday.
If so, that’s contrary to regulations that oblige explorers to report historic finds within 24 hours, said Simonetta Bonomi, superintendent for archaeological and cultural heritage of Calabria,.
“There are a number of elements that must be…clarified,” she said Tuesday.
Most of the print coverage (English and Italian) seems to derive from the same ANSA coverage and includes a too-small photo. However, I did come across some TG coverage worth looking at:
This one’s more for my own write-this-down-because-it-might-lead-somewhere purposes … La Repubblica has a video report of a underwater find of a large quantity of obsidian off Capri:
… ANSA, via Napoli Today, has the report in print:
Ritrovamento di un carico navale di ossidiana risalente a alcune migliaia di anni addietro nel mare dell’isola di Capri. Autore della scoperta è Vasco Fronzoni, l’esperto subacqueo caprese che in una delle sue immersioni quotidiane si è trovato di fronte a un incredibile avvistamento.
Fronzoni, nel rendere pubblica oggi la notizia dopo aver depositato in Soprintendenza la denuncia e la relazione del rinvenimento, afferma che “il ritrovamento potrebbe aggiornare la storia dell’isola e scrivere nuove pagine sui commerci e sulle rotte dell’antichità”. Il carico, che secondo il sub “giace sui fondali dell’isola da oltre cinquemila anni”, è legato, dice Fronzoni, “alla presenza di un relitto navale di epoca neolitica che trasportava lungo le nostre coste un carico di ossidiana che nell’epoca preistorica veniva adoperata come materia prima per la fabbricazione di armi, utensili e altri manufatti ed era tra i più pregiati elementi prima dell’ avvento dei metalli”.
Probabilmente quello rinvenuto a Capri è uno dei più antichi carichi marittimi ritrovati nel bacino del Mediterraneo. Nel prossimo mese di settembre, mediante rilievi geodetici e geofisici, sarà individuata la sua precisa localizzazione e saranno raccolti tutti gli elementi per inquadrare da un punto di vista storico e archeologico il sito e i reperti da parte di un gruppo di lavoro di cui faranno parte il Centro Studi Subacquei Napoli e l’università Parthenope, con l’appoggio della Soprintendenza Archeologica di Napoli.
… as can be seen, they are postulating the existence of a Neolithic era shipwreck, which would be interesting in itself, but I’m noting this for the possibility of it coming from a much later shipwreck … back when I was pondering the Soros at Marathon (Marathon Musings) there was passing mention of finds of all sorts of obsidian points, which could not have come from Ethiopian archers (we are told) because the obsidian wasn’t African in origin. I haven’t seen any studies (other than Renfrew’s, which was mentioned in that post) where the obsidian from Marathon is actually matched with a source … hint hint …
… and it has wine in it! From Typically Spanish:
Archaeologists in Vélez-Málaga Town Hall have discovered a Roman Amphora, dating from the first century.
What’s more the experts say it’s still full of wine which they think is in ‘perfect conditions’ because the vessel is hermetically sealed.
The Councillor for Culture and Heritage in Vélez-Málaga, José Antonio Fortes (PP), explain to journalists that the amphora was hermetically ‘sealed with resin and lime, and contains between 25 and 30 litres of a liquid which the municipal technicians think is wine.
Destined to be part of the merchandise going from Hispania to Rome, the Amphora was left forgotten in Vélez-Málaga Town Hall, found in 1960 in the basements of the Beniel Palace, and then forgotten again in the municipal buildings.
The metre-high Amphora will form part of the new museum on Vélez-Málaga History, which will hold Mesopotamian, Greek, Phoenician and Roman items in the old Hospital de San Juan de Dios, which was founded at the end of the 15th century by the Catholic Kings.
The contents are to be analyzed in a few days time, my a specialist laboratory. Seems a bit of a shame, but Cheers!
- via: Roman Amphora from 1st century found in Vélez-Málaga, and it’s still full of wine! (Typically Spanish)
I’m kind of wondering why they have assumed it must be wine in the amphora … a quick Google search for Vélez-Málaga finds almost everything mentioning the Romans producing garum there, so my money’s on them finding that … As long as we’re at it, maybe I can gripe that we keep reading about shipwrecks with intact cargo (and I’ll probably tell you all about the recently-found one from Genoa tomorrow) but we never seem to read of any analysis of the contents of this intact cargo, other than the brief flurry of excitement from the research of Brendan Foley, which doesn’t seem to have involved ‘intact’ items in many cases (Some Potential Amphora Use Revisionism and Amphora Revisionism Followup). E.g., the shipwreck from Zannone in February … not sure if the ones found off Cape Palinuro were intact in the sense of ‘not broken’ or in the ‘with cargo’ sense.
Brief item from Euroweekly:
AN amphora dating back to the fourth century BC has discovered buried three metres deep in the ground near Denia port. Archaeologist Josep A Santonja Gisbert says the jar is in perfect condition and has identified it as ‘Punic’ a unique type that was produced in Ibiza between the years 400/375 and 300 BC. Linked to other similar discoveries found in settlements and underwater sites around the Iberian lift from Ampurias to Almeria, and the Balearic Islands, is clear evidence of the expansion of Eivissa wine and its consumption by the Iberian tribes. Its presence is particularly relevant as it fills an historical void connecting Iberian culture and settlements existing in the vicinity of Denia. A representative of the the Archaeological Museum of Denia said they were very grateful to Alvaro Gomez Ferrer who discovered the item and the local police for their collaboration in excavating the find. A full report will be compiled by the experts and issued to the Underwater Archaeology Centre of the Generalitat Valenciana.
The original article has a photo of the amphora … this find obviously predates the Roman occupation of the site (we heard of a Roman fish-salting factory there a while ago: Roman Salting Factory from Denia/Dianum) and probably comes from the time the place was a colony of Massilia(Strabo’s: Hemeroscopeium (3.4.6). For a press release (in Spanish) from Denia, which identifies the type more specifically as a PE14 amphora:
I’ve been trying to find out a bit more about this Roman shipwreck find which seems to be an ‘exclusive’ of the Past Horizons folks (A Roman shipwreck in the ancient port of Antibes). To supplement that, I’ve come across a podcast with an interview with a couple of the archaeologists involved (in French):
- Découverte d’un navire romain à Antibes(Le Salon Noir)
… and here’s the INRAP press release (also in French):
Interesting story in the Oxford Mail:
AN OXFORD archaeologist is facing one of the greatest challenges of his career, tracking down a 2,500-year-old Greek helmet that has been lost for 30 years.
In the early 1980s, Mensun Bound took part in the excavation of a 2,500-year-old Etruscan vessel off the island of Giglio, Italy.
But of the many artefacts he brought to the surface, the Oxford University archaeologist always felt the ancient wreck was robbed of its crowning glory.
A bronze helmet, believed to be worth millions, had already been taken by a German diver when the vessel was discovered 20 years earlier. Mr Bound has spent decades hot on its trail, and has now been asked by the Italians to head an international appeal to finally track it down.
They hope to house it in a museum on Giglio alongside artefacts from the wreck.
He tracked it down in Germany in 1982 when he traced the diver by phoning everybody of the same name. Because of its high value it was being kept in a bank.
Mr Bound photographed it, made drawings and even wore it. But it was to be the last time he saw it.
The 59-year-old, a research fellow at St Peter’s College, said: “It is hoped the museum will one day become a permanent home for the helmet, which is the most spectacular item ever to have come from the island and one of the most important finds made in Italy.
More Oxford news
“I have seen all the Greek helmets in existence, and this is by far the most beautiful. It is even more important because it comes from a known archaeological site of the very early 6th century BC.
“Beaten from a single sheet of bronze and decorated with snakes and wild boars, there is nothing else like it in the world. It is a masterpiece of ancient art and technology that could not be duplicated by a modern craftsman.”
Eight years ago, Mr Bound, who lives in Horspath, was asked by dealers to authenticate a helmet in Switzerland. But it never went to auction. Before he could fly over, the helmet had been sold in a private sale.
Mr Bound suspects the helmet is now in a private collection. The initial challenge is to find the owner before negotiations with the Italian authorities may begin.
The mayor of Giglio, Sergio Ortelli, said: “I’d like to talk to whoever has the helmet, and in the spirit of friendship, and on behalf of the people of Giglio, to ask for it back.
“And also to invite whoever has it to a ceremony to mark the return of our island’s lost treasure.”
- via: Decades delving into Greek helmet puzzle (Oxford Mail)
I’m not sure if the helmet in question is the one which graced the cover of the January 1990 edition of Minerva (I don’t have access to read the article, alas).
Here’s one that’s been in my box for a while, and there haven’t been any followups, alas … from Hurriyet:
A sarcophagus covered with figures depicting Eros and Medusa and believed to date from the Roman period has been found in the sea near the location of the ancient city of Justinianopolis, in the southern province of Antalya’s Alanya district.
The sarcophagus was retrieved from the water after a six-hour effort and has been delivered to the Alanya Museum Directorate.
Diving school trainer Hakan Güleç spotted an object covered with sand and rocks while diving 20 days ago. When trying to move the object, he saw the figures on it and photographed them. He showed the photos to Alanya Museum officials, and after examining them, they decided to exhibit it. The sarcophagus is estimated to date from the second or third century A.D.
Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum Director Yaşar Yıldız and archaeologists cleared sand and debris from the sarcophagus for six hours, and it was lifted out of the water with the help of a crane. Tourists took photos of the sarcophagus while the work was going on.
“The Alanya Museum has gained a new piece of art. The figures on it show that it dates from the Roman period,” Yıldız said.
- via: Submerged Roman sarcophagus found (Hurriyet)
The original article has a photo-from-a-distance which really isn’t useful for establishing what scene is depicted on it, although you can see one (or two?) Medusas. In the coverage for the Art Newspaper, Yildiz is quoted as speculating it was made up the coast at Aphrodisias.
What I’d like to have seen is some further speculation as to how it got where it did. Even with six hours of cleaning, it seems awfully clean for something made of marble that has supposedly been in the sea for a couple of thousand years, no? Is there a shipwreck around it? Were other things found in association with it? Or (as I note that someone commenting on the Art Newspaper’s coverage has also suggested) is this probably something that was being smuggled somewhere and dumped overboard for whatever reasons?
Nice of them to mention Justinianopolis, though …
From an American Chemical Society news thingie:
A new study puts some finishing touches on the 2,300-year history of the beak-like weapon that an ancient warship used to ram enemy ships in the First Punic War, the conflict between ancient Rome and Carthage. The report, in ACS’ journal Analytical Chemistry, also identifies a major threat that conservators must address in preserving this archaeological treasure for future generations.
Patrick Frank and colleagues explain that the ram, called a rostrum, was found in 2008 under 22 feet of water, 150 feet offshore from Acqualadrone (which means “Bay of the Pirates”) in northeastern Sicily. The Acqualadrone rostrum is bronze, with a wooden core that was preserved because of burial beneath the seafloor. Carbon-14 dating suggests that the warship sank around 260 B.C. after being damaged in the battle of Mylae during the opening stages of the First Punic War, which may have been among the largest wars of its time. Earlier research localized the metals in the bronze to mines in Spain or Cyprus. The authors, from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University and the University of Palermo, set out in the new research to learn more about the origin and condition of the rostrum wood.
Their analysis of the acids and other substances in the wood showed that the strutwork of the Acqualadrone rostrum was pine, waterproofed with pine tar. Other woods, like juniper and oak, and other ancient marine sealants, like beeswax, were ruled out. Importantly, the research found copious sulfur in the wood that could turn into sulfuric acid, an extremely corrosive substance. Sulfuric acid is known to appear in recovered wooden marine archaeological treasures and can threaten their existence. The authors argue that iron and copper permeating the wood may catalyze that transformation, but they suggest that removing ozone from museum air could slow the conversion.
The whole article, in all its technical jargon glory, is available at:
- Ancient Wood of the Acqualadrone Rostrum: Materials History through Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry and Sulfur X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy
I think this is the same rostrum mentioned here: Rostrum Found
No, not the loveable short Gaul, but the shipwreck. From the BBC:
Dr Jason Monaghan said Asterix is the most historically valuable Roman artefact in northern Europe.
He said a public private partnership could be the way forward.
Dr Monaghan said: “It’s a very exciting idea, but Guernsey is actually quite a small place and maritime archaeology projects are expensive.”
He said: “What we’re saying at the moment is the ship is ready we want people now who are interested in helping secure the future of the ship to step forward and to start the discussion of where it’s going to go, how we’re going to fund it coming here.”
The wreck was found on Christmas Day 1982 in St Peter Port Harbour and raised by the Guernsey Maritime Trust during 1984-86.
Since then it has undergone restoration work at the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth, costing the States £5,000 a year.
Dr Monaghan said: “It will be finished in terms of conservation in the next couple of months, the Mary Rose Trust have agreed to keep it until the end of 2011 and we’re discussing with them whether they can keep it for a couple more years while we establish what we’re going to do with the ship long term.
“It would be very nice if it could be brought back to Guernsey, the chief problem is its size, it’s 18m (59ft) long. There’s no building that the Museums service has which is long enough to put it in.
“So we have to find a building, we have to convert the building, we have to build a glass showcase to put the ship in with a bit of environmental controls to keep the humidity stable.
“Then we have to build effectively a museum gallery around it in order to make it interesting for the general public who don’t know anything about Roman ships.
“So we display the artefact beautifully and then we interpret it for locals, for visitors, for school groups so that they can understand what they are seeing so they see how it fits into ships in the Roman world and how Guernsey fits into the Roman world as well.”
Dr Monaghan said the wreck was extremely important to Guernsey.
“It takes St Peter Port’s history back as a trading port right back to the 3rd Century AD and actually probably before that,” he said.
St Peter Port Harbour and Cobo Bay Dr Monaghan said St Peter Port Harbour looked more like Cobo Bay when the ship was afloat
“So it shows how important we were in the Roman world and it’s also the biggest Roman object from Britain [and] the largest surviving seagoing ship of this particular antiquity in northern Europe.
“It’s a Celtic style boat, i.e. a boat made by the people who lived in the region, but it had Roman technology built into it, so it’s an interesting mix of the local style and Roman – we’ve got bits of evidence to about 50BC of ships like this operating locally.
“This ship was designed specifically in our waters, it’s got a flat bottom which means it didn’t need a harbour because St Peter Port in those days would have looked a bit more like Cobo with little rocky inlets and with beaches in between.
“It would have been able to come in here and go up on the beach and wouldn’t have needed a great big posh jetty like the Roman merchant ships would have done. This is a special local adaption to solve particular problems and it’s also very heavily built so it could stand a bit of rough handling.”
Some previous coverage:
This one just started filtering in this a.m. … here’s the Reuters coverage:
A team of marine archaeologists using sonar scanners have discovered four ancient shipwrecks off the tiny Italian island of Zannone, with intact cargoes of wine and oil.
The remains of the trading vessels, dating from the first century BC to the 5th-7th century AD, are up to 165 meters underwater, a depth that preserved them from being disturbed by fishermen over the centuries.
“The deeper you go, the more likely you are to find complete wrecks,” said Annalisa Zarattini, an official from the archaeological services section of the Italian culture ministry.
The timber structures of the vessels have been eaten away by tiny marine organisms, leaving their outlines and the cargoes still lying in the position they were stowed on board.
“The ships sank, they came to rest at the bottom of the sea, the wood disappeared and you find the whole ship, with the entire cargo. Nothing has been taken away,” she said.
The discoveries were made through cooperation between Italian authorities and the Aurora Trust, a U.S. foundation that promotes exploration of the Mediterranean seabed.
The vessels, up to 18 meters long, had been carrying amphorae, or large jars, containing wine from Italy, and cargo from North Africa and Spain including olive oil, fruit and garum, a pungent fish sauce that was a favorite ingredient in Roman cooking.
Another ship, as yet undated, appeared to have been carrying building bricks. It is unclear how the vessels sank and no human remains have been found.
The vessels are the second “fleet” of ships to be discovered in recent years near the Pontine islands, an archipelago off Italy’s west coast believed to have been a key junction for ships bringing supplies to the vast warehouses of Rome.
“One aim was to test the hypothesis that the Pontine islands, which are very small and which were barely inhabited in antiquity, were really important maritime staging posts because they had very good natural harbors,” Zarattini said.
The team hope to find a secondary cargo of smaller items which they believe would have been stowed in straw and may be well preserved under the crustacean-clad sediments.
Last year, the project found five wrecks off nearby Ventotene, an island used in Roman times to exile disgraced Roman noblewomen. The Emperor Augustus sent his daughter Julia there to punish her for adultery.
Italy has signed a new UNESCO agreement that requires them to leave the wreckage in place, potentially opening the way to would-be treasure hunters although Zarattini said the benefits in terms of tourism outweighed the risks.
“We think the sea, which is particularly beautiful around these islands, can become a real museum,” she said.
“In the future, not so far off, a lot of people will be able to go down and see the wreckage themselves.”
As mentioned in the article, last year this same group of folks found those five shipwrecks off Ventotene, and the project does have a website about their activities which is worth looking at. Their blog relates a press conference, however, which seems to suggest these shipwrecks are connected to the shipwreck found at Panarea which we mentioned a few weeks ago. Not sure if that suggests we may be hearing more in the near future or not, but a clarification post/article might be a good thing.
Starting the summer blogging season with a brief item from ANSA:
The wreck of a Roman ship from the first century AD which is still whole and has over 500 wide-mouthed amphorae onboard has been discovered to the south of the island of Panarea. The discovery, which was made by the Sea Superintendence together with the American Foundation ‘Aurora Trust’ and the support of the Environment Ministry, was illustrated in a press conference this morning in Palermo by the Regional Councillor for Cultural Heritage, Gaetano Armao, and by the Superintendent, Sebastiano Tusa. ”From the first surveys,” said Tusa, ”we can establish that it is a merchant shipping measuring around 25 metres, in perfect condition, which transported fruit and vegetables from Sicily to the markets in the north. The style of the amphorae is in fact typical of the ‘workshops’ of the island and of southern Italy. The merchant ship was identified with the use of a wire-controlled ‘Rov’ video camera. Now the campaign in the Aeolian islands will proceed with ”research carried out,” explains Tusa, ”with particularly sophisticated robots which will allow us to better contextualise the wreck in time and space.” The ship might not be the only one: on the seabed of Panarea there is believed to be another ship. ”Traces have been found,” concluded Tusa, ”of a second wreck that has not yet been identified. Research will be carried out in this direction.” The amphorae are the Dressel 21-22 type, datable to the first century AD, made in Lazio and used for the transport of Garum (a popular sauce in Roman times), fresh and dried fruit, as well as various types of cereals. The amphorae were found placed in a slightly different position to their original one on the ship. They are in fact lying on one side. This would indicate that the ship, sliding along the seabed, came to rest leaning on one side.
A while ago we mentioned that lead recovered from a Roman shipwreck was going to be used to help in neutrino research. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was more interested in the shipwreck than the lead, so I’m happy to share this very interesting video/slideshow thingy by Rossella Lorenzi of Discovery News fame. All about the wreck:
Very interesting item buried in my email from last week:
The second century Greek trading vessel lies on the sea bed off the coast of Cavtat.
Little remains of the wooden ship but its cargo of earthenware amphora – ceramic vases – still remain stacked row upon row.
The vases, which originally contained olive oil and wine, are still tightly packed into the cargo hold as they were centuries ago.
Its cargo – one of the best preserved from an ancient wreck – has great historical significance and has an estimated value of £5m on the black market.
Croatian authorities are so concerned about looters plundering the valuable artefacts they have now protected the site – with a metal cage.
The heavy-duty cage features a large hinged door, which is kept locked with occasional access granted for divers under strict supervision.
Underwater photographer Neil Hope, of Torpoint in Cornwall, was among those given permission to dive the wreck.
He said: ”I’m an experienced diver and I’ve dived wrecks all over the world, but this was the most unique experience.
”I was taken down there by the man who discovered it. As soon as we were finished they closed the door and locked it up again.
”Obviously when you are inside you can’t touch any of the cargo as it is very valuable, so they don’t just let anyone inside the cage.
”You need excellent buoyancy skills so you’re not damaging these valuable things.”
He was working on an assignment for the British Sub-Aqua Club’s (BS-AC) DIVE magazine.
Hmmm … very interesting. I can’t find that we’ve mentioned this shipwreck find before and it’s very interesting that we don’t seem to hear of any archaeologists in this report. FWIW, another shipwreck find in this general area seems to be under a cloak of secrecy: that Boka Kotorska wreck off Montenegro.
UPDATE: (a couple of weeks later) … an item from ABC suggests this really isn’t a ‘protection’ project, but the focus is actually dive-tourism (not a bad thing, but a different sort of impression than the original provides):
Not sure how you stumble underwater but …
Researchers have stumbled upon a collection of rare Roman pots while scouring ship wrecks off the Italian coast of Capo Palinuro, near Policastro.
The British team from the Aberdeen-based Hallin Marine International energy company found hundreds of ancient pots 1,640ft under the sea while trawling modern wrecks for radioactive materials.
Five of the 2,000 year-old vessels were recovered intact and taken to an archaeology museum in the northern Italian city of Paestum, mailonline reported.
“They would have probably been loaded on some kind of merchant ship which sank all those years ago,” said team supervisor Dougie Combe.
“It was a big surprise when we came across the pots as we were looking for modern wrecks from the last 20 years or so,” he added.
“We managed to get five up altogether, but there must have been hundreds of them there.”
- Hundreds of rare Roman pots discovered by accident off Italy’s coast by British research ship | Daily Mail
Renowned archaeologist Franck Goddio talks with podcast host Steve Mirsky [below] about his efforts to recover artifacts from the ancient cities of Alexandria, Heracleion and Canopus, with special attention to discoveries related to Cleopatra and her reign.
Came across this one las week but couldn’t get it to post for some reason … it details the discovery via satellite imagery, off the shore of Baia, of what seems to be a Roman theatre:
Era il lontano 1956, quando Raimondo Bucher – ufficiale pilota da caccia – scoprì durante una ricognizione aerea, giacere a soli pochi metri dalla linea di costa, un’intera città romana collocata sui fondali del golfo di Pozzuoli. Come ebbe a dire poco dopo, durante un’intervista: «Era da poco passata la guerra, uscivo di pattuglia sul mare partendo dall’aeroporto di Capodichino. Dall’alto, in una giornata caratterizzata dalla straordinaria limpidezza del cielo e del mare, intravidi forme sottomarine simmetriche e regolari. Incuriosito, decisi pertanto di scattare dal cielo alcune fotografie, che ancora oggi restano per la loro limpidezza, testimonianza ineguagliata. Dopo lo sviluppo ebbi la sconcertante sorpresa: dalle stampe apparvero nella loro chiarezza quelle che inequivocabilmente erano mura, strade, e costruzioni di un’antica città sommersa. Erano i resti della antica città romana di Baia».
L’antico teatro: guarda le immagini
OPERA MURARIA – Oggi, a soli poco più di 50 anni di distanza, ritornando a “sorvolare” la zona interessata dai ritrovamenti è stato possibile osservare (grazie all’ausilio di moderni strumenti di telerilevamento satellitare), accanto a quelle antiche strutture d’età imperiale che giacciono in fondo al mare individuate dal Capitano Bucher, resti di un’opera muraria non ancora degnamente esplorata. Rilevati nei fondali della collina del Castello Aragonese, emergono per le loro caratteristiche essenziali, i resti di una particolare struttura dalla forma geometrica a semicerchio, che richiamano la pianta classica di un antico teatro romano d’età imperiale. La struttura, che si trova a pochi metri di profondità, è rivolta in direzione sud-est ed era capace di ospitare fino a 5.000 spettatori. Gli spalti, sfruttando la naturale conformazione del terreno, degradavano dolcemente dalla collina verso il mare. Stilisticamente il manufatto mostra una perfetta ed inalterata forma semicircolare interrotta da una murazione, forse utlizzata come fondale.
SPETTACOLO NELLO SPETTACOLO – Presumibilmente, ricalcando la linea di costa dell’antica «Baiae», offriva alle rappresentazioni del periodo uno scenario unico e inimitabile direttamente sul mare. Più elementi inducono a pensare che si tratti del famoso Teatro di Cesare in quanto la struttura risulta facente parte di un più ampio complesso residenziale definito Villa di Cesare (a conferma di quanto sostiene Tacito secondo il quale la villa di Cesare era posta su di un’altura dominante il golfo di Baia) successivamente inglobato nell’attuale fortezza Aragonese. Un grandiosa villa romana dunque i cui resti e il suo teatro si conservano inalterati ancora nelle profondità del nostro mare.
There is a slideshow of a dozen images of varying relevance at the original page …
Renowned archaeologist Franck Goddio talks with podcast host Steve Mirsky [below] about his efforts to recover artifacts from the ancient cities of Alexandria, Heracleion and Canopus, with special attention to discoveries related to Cleopatra and her reign. The exhibit Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt opens at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia on June 5th. Web sites related to this episode include http://www.underwaterdiscovery.org