One empty ancient ship tells the story of an entire age.
The Guardian UK reported this week that an ancient Roman merchant ship was uncovered during the construction of a parking ramp on the French Riviera. The timbers of this 2nd – 3rd century CE ship are so well preserved that they still show tool marks from the builders. In one minor discovery, the brush of one of the shipwrights – possibly used for waterproofing the ship’s seams – was found inside the hull.
The vessel’s discovery casts a light on one of the most interesting locations of the ancient Mediterranean world. The modern city of Antibes, France is a popular Riviera destination with ancient roots at least 2,600 years deep. Formerly the Roman port of Antipolis, Antibes was originally colonized around 550BCE as part of Greek Massalia (modern Marseille, France) and much fought over by factions of the ancient world – civilized and barbarian – since that time.
The Antibes discovery harkens to its big sister shipwreck discovered and excavated in the 1970’s in the waters off Madrague de Giens, France. The Antibes wreck is completely empty, indicating that its cargo may have been removed immediately after its sinking – like large portions of the Madrague de Giens cargo – by specialized recovery divers in depths up to 60 feet. Imagine doing such a rare and hazardous occupation in ancient times!
The most astounding thing about wrecks like these is the implication of widespread trade all around the Mediterranean and beyond. At Madrague de Giens, for example, many artifacts could not even be traced to locations thought to be known by Greco-Roman cultures. So, the mysteries of the ancients just keep widening.
One thing’s for sure. If the French didn’t need more parking spaces, we might never have found the Antibes wreck. So, chalk one up for car lovers, archaeologists, and construction workers – the unlikely ultimate history detective team.
Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.
3 other unexpected things found just below the surface of the sea:
- The lost recipe for sea cucumber ranch dressing.
- A colony of actual Sea Monkeys – not just a disappointing school of tiny brine shrimp.
- The keys to my giant yacht. I swear I had them here somewhere … (patting my pockets)
Chris Everheart is author of the thriller
- Shipwreck in ‘exceptional’ condition discovered by archaeologists in France (guardian.co.uk)
- Roman Shipwreck from Antibes (rogueclassicism.com)
- The Olive Computer Corporation (chriseverheart.com)
- Delphi: Goats to Gods (chriseverheart.com)