Major Punic War Find Off Sicily!!

… and where is the major media coverage? Not sure … this comes from the relatively ‘local’ Keysnews (Florida):

For thousands of years the remnants of the final battle of the first Punic War lay undisturbed off the coast of Sicily, until last week when a Stock Island-based research firm raised artifacts from the seafloor that historians say provide clues as to how the largest conflicts in antiquity were waged.

Historians, divers, scientists and archaeologists with the nonprofit RPM Nautical Foundation raised helmets and vessel-battering rams used during a battle between Roman and Carthaginian forces in 241 B.C., a sea battle that contributed to the Romans achieving empire status and dominion over the then-known world.

It is considered the first-ever such find, and the discovery off the Egadi Islands is propelling the Shrimp Road nonprofit to major league status among academics worldwide. The organization was set up to operate exclusively for charitable, scientific, literary and educational purposes, not treasure hunting.

The excitement of the find was not lost on RPM Nautical archaeologist Jeff Royal, who spoke to The Citizen via phone Thursday aboard the foundation’s multimillion-dollar research vessel Hercules, ported in Malta. The 120-foot boat and its $1 million-plus remote operating submersible is fitted with some of the latest computer, mapping and sonar technology that provides three-dimensional analysis for detecting wrecks and artifacts.

“Sea battles at that time were infrequent and we know the battle took place on March 22, 241 B.C.,” Royal said. “The rams have Roman and Punic writing. Going into this, there were five other known warship rams in existence from this era.”

RPM Nautical has doubled that figure by its recent find, but perhaps more importantly, the discovery puts events in context, which is rare, Royal said. Typically, helmets, tools, weapons and other such artifacts from ancient times are found by fishermen or exist alone in private collections, so it’s difficult for historians and archaeologists to glean fuller understanding of ancient events in a broad sense.

Thus far, researchers are still going over the artifacts and studying them, but Royal hopes the find will help historians to understand how supplies were shipped during wartime thousands of years ago.

“Nothing is definite yet; we just raised the latest ram this week,” Royal said. “But based on the timbers that fit into these rams, we believe the ships were much smaller than have been previously hypothesized. They were not these large, multi-deck vessels, but much more moderate in size.”

Researchers also are finding that the helmets they’ve found are similar to those used by Celtic armies, which apparently were being adapted by the Romans and Carthaginian forces, Royal said. That makes sense, because although the Carthaginians were the premier naval power of their time, their land armies were made up mostly of mercenaries, often from Celtic areas, Royal said.

Some of the artifacts already are at museums, and historians believe they can teach us not only about ancient warfare, but about the technology that went into building the ships and how trade routes, war and society all fit together more than 200 years before the birth of Christ.

More often than not in ancient times, the victors of battles would plunder their foes’ supplies and then dump or leave what they could not carry, sometimes offering them to the gods, Royal explained. Others would then scavenge the items over the years, but not so in marine battles.

“The site has gone undetected from scavengers, other than fishing nets, so we have a much better context of all these items and what the ship was carrying,” Royal said.

The news of the find comes just weeks after the foundation discovered a well-preserved wreck of a Roman cargo ship off the coast of Albania dating to the 1st century B.C. That site contained some 300 wine jars, known by their Greek name of amphoras, that are providing insight into trade routes between western and eastern Mediterranean Sea-based civilizations.

As of Friday, researchers were still working on retrieving items from the Egadi Islands site and more news could be on the way, Royal said.

“I’m fortunate in the fact that our hard work paid off and that we’ve been able to experience the discovery and to publish the find,” Royal said. “It’s unique and one of the most significant finds in archaeology in quite some time.”

As noted in the article, this is the same firm that reported finding a shipwreck off Albania a week or so ago: Roman Shipwreck in Albanian Waters … and as can be seen from our coverage, it first appeared in an Iranian source, likely culled from from some European news agency, but it took almost a week to hit the rest of press (with more info … I really should update that post). As of this a.m., I don’t see this particular story anywhere except this local source. Perhaps the RPM folks need better channels getting the word out?

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