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Domingo, 09.08.09

Capraia (Livorno), Le Formiche. Mapping and Recording a Late Republican Wreck Site

The 2009 project in Capraia saw ProMare and SBAToscana involved in the mapping, recording, and excavation of a 4 x 4 m testing trench to verify the presence of the main cargo, and possible hull remains, of a second-century B.C. underwater site close to the northern tip of the island and to the rocks called Le Formiche, facing the promontory called Punta Teglia (Fig. 1).



Fig. 1. View of the Punta Teglia promontory. Its rocky cliff is only 260 m away from the archaeological site.

(Photo: D. Bartoli, ProMare)


After a first season of research in 2007, when SBAToscana collected evidence of a large concentration of black-glazed pottery and Late Graeco-Italic amphoras, SBAToscana and ProMare inspected the site in October 2008. It was then confirmed that, at 18 m of depth, a large concentration of black-glazed bowls, cups, and plates was spread over an area of ca. 60 x 40 m on a seafloor characterized by a massive growth of posidonia oceanica intermixed with some sandy spots. It was therefore likely that an ancient ship was lost in the proximity (Fig. 2).





Fig. 2. General view of the underwater site, seen from its eastern end. It is visible the sandy area where most of the black-glazed artifact are located; on the left the wall of posidonia which might cover the main portion of the cargo, and remains of the hull. (Photo: A. Pareti, SBAToscana).


It was not clear, however, if the remains of the merchantman which carried the artifacts could have survived under the thick layer of seagrass, and if a merchantman was present at all - the ship could have simply capsized, spread its cargo all over the area, and crashed on the sharp rocks of the nearby promontory. The lack of the typical "amphoras' mound" that characterizes the majority of the known Graeco-Roman shipwrecks, represented the main challenge for researchers that could not locate the main portion of the cargo, if it exists.

It was necessary to verify if, next to the sandy spot with the highest concentration of artifacts, an excavation trench at the base of the posidonia could reveal further remains of the cargo - and possibly a portion of the hull itself. After selecting the area next to the highest concentration of artifacts and dividing it into four grids of 8 x 8 m (Fig. 3), the area was spike-probed at regular intervals to check if beneath the posidonia's roots harder material (possibly pottery) was present (Fig. 4). Markers were used to evidence these anomalies (Fig. 5), and the spot with the highest concentration of them was chosen and divided into a smaller, 4 x 4 m grid, where the actual excavation took place (Fig. 6).














Figs. 3-6. Different phases of the work in Capraia: creating the survey grids, spike-probing, leaving markers on the seafloor, and creating the excavation grid. (Photos: A. Pareti, SBAToscana)


An underwater metal-detector was also used to locate metallic signals such as the copper and iron nails of the ship's hull, which were indeed found both in the excavation area and in the sand; all the artifacts were positioned and mapped using trilateration, offsets measurements, and a detailed site plan was created using Site Recorder 4® (Figs. 7-9).






Figs. 7-8. Metal-detector operations at Capraia, and offset measurements of an artifact.

(Photo 7: D. Bartoli; Photo 8: P. Holt, ProMare)

At the end of the 2009 field work season, the small excavation trench provided new clues to prove that a ship did sink in Capraia, but its wooden remains, if present, have not been located yet. Several copper and iron nails testify to the presence of wooden planks in this spot on the seafloor (Figs. 10-11).









Figs. 10-11. An iron and a copper nail coming from the excavation area.

(Photos: D. Murphy, D. Bartoli, ProMare)


Some diagnostic artefacts such as a bronze Roman coin dated to the first half of the second century B.C. (Fig. 12), one black-glazed guttus (Figs. 13-14), and a well-preserved oil-lamp (Fig. 15) were found also during the 2009 campaign.





Fig. 12. Roman bronze assis with representation of a ship's bow..

(Photo: A. Pareti, SBAToscana)

Oil-Lamp Web 11279.JPG






Figs. 13-14. The guttus as it appeared on the seafloor at the time of discovery, and on land. (Photos: D. Bartoli, ProMare; A. Pareti, SBAToscana)








Figs. 15-16. The black-glazed oil-lamp. (Photos: A. Pareti, SBAToscana)


Two lead fishing-weights (one left on the seafloor), found close to the bronze coin and in association with a little bronze blade might represent evidence of an ancient fishing net lost on this site, with the necessary tools ready to clean the newly-caught fish (Figs. 17-18).












Figs. 17-18. A lead fishing weight (to the left), found in association with a small bronze simpulum' handle (to the right). The wooden handle did not survive (Photos: D. Murphy, ProMare; A. Pareti, SBAToscana)



More artefacts such as broken roof tiles (Fig. 19), ancient blown glass3 (Fig. 20), three amphora necks (Fig. 21-23), and several black-glazed artefacts (Figs 24-25) testify to the importance of this site which needs to be studied, even in absence of the main cargo, as a quite uncommon example of an assemblage of small, light, highly-mobile artefacts, which have been distributed over a large area of the seafloor by the constant action of the sea currents which are strong in the area.




Figs. 19-20. A roof tile from the site (to the left), and a sherd of late Roman-Medieval blown-glass (to the right)

(Photos: D. Muphy, ProMare)
















Figs. 21-25. Three amphora necks from the site, and a black-glazed bowl with four palmettes decorating it.

From left to right: a Dressel 20 amphora neck, a Rhodian and Dressel 1A (?) types.

(Photos: D. Bartoli, ProMare).


Fonte: (Jul 2009).

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Agosto 2009