Mazotos Shipwreck

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.

… despite my intro, for some background:

… and from us way back in 2008:

Roman Ship From Antibes Redux

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 …

Potentially MAJOR Find Off Calabria

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:

Obsidian from Capri

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”.

Annuncio promozionale

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 …

First Century Roman Amphora from Vélez-Málaga

… 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!

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.