Few stories and great clashes are as deeply meaningful and powerful than the nearly century long conflict between Rome and Carthage; we call these conflicts the Punic Wars. Ultimately, Rome would emerge victorious – after great cost of life, land, and statesmen (at the famous Battle of Cannae in 216 BCE, Rome lost both its consuls and over 80,000 men in a single day at the hands of the infamous General Hannibal Barca).
When one studies the wars, looking at it from the beginning, the outcome was not set. In fact, I would have put my money on Carthage. So how did Rome turn the tide and emerge not only victorious, but dominating. In fact, in 146 BCE not only does Rome definitely defeat its mortal enemy (dismantling the city and killing or enslaving the survivors), but it is the same year that Rome defeats the Greeks in Corinth and absorbs that region into their expanding Empire. It was the beginning of the true might that was Rome.
This month’s Archaeology Magazine highlights several new finds off the Western Coast of Sicily, likely related to the Battle of Aegates Islands (a conflict during the first Punic War). They believe that the weapons and ships constructions that they have uncovered will provide greater insight into how Rome ultimately came to dominate the Mediterranean. To read more about this, see the article in Archaeology Magazine.
Nautical Archaeologists have recently discovered a Roman era shipwreck off of the coast of Albania. The wreck, which dates to the 1st century BCE was filled with amphorae used to store wine. Archaeologists believe that merchants were transporting the wine from Albania’s vineyards to be sold throughout the Mediterranean.
In spite of its age and relatively shallow depth (50 m below sea level), the wreck is remarkably well preserved and nearly all of the vessel seem to be in tact. Both American and Albanian archaeologists will work together to excavate the findings and are excited about the potential for insight it provides about this period in Roman history.
To read more about the wreck and its findings, see this article on MSNBC.
The Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia is currently working to restore and reconstruct the innovative engines of the USS Monitor. The USS Monitor was one of the first ironclad naval vessels in the United States and was constructed to confront new Confederate naval technologies that were being employed to break the Union blockade. Most famously, the USS Monitor clashed with the CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimack) in the first battle involving ironclad ships in Hampton Roads, Virginia. While officially the battle was a standstill, the Monitor was successful in that it prevented the CSS Virginia from breaching the Union blockade.
Nautical Archaeologists have recently discovered a shipwreck off the coast of Ireland that they believe to have belonged to the ill-fated 1588 expedition to England.
In 1588, the Spanish Armada at 130 strong set sail to England with the intent of deposing Queen Elizabeth I. At the time, the Catholic country of Spain was embroiled is an undeclared ‘war,’ termed the Anglo-Spanish War, with Protestant England.
The ill-fated Armada, considered at the time a legitimate threat to the powerful nation of England, was all but destroyed in a storm off the coast of Ireland. Of the original fleet, fewer than 50 made it back him to Spain with the invasion never having taken place.
The unfriendly waters off the coast of Ireland make discovery and excavation difficult, but this new piece is anticipated to be a source of national pride for the people of England. Read more about the discovery in this article of the Belfast Telegraph.
Underwater archaeologists have uncovered the remains of what they believe are three ships that belonged to the infamous Welsh privateer Captain Henry Morgan.
Morgan was an English privateer (a common euphemism for political pirates) that targeted the Spanish fleet during the 17th century. Henry Morgan was, arguably, the most successful and bloodthirsty of the English pirates operating in the region under the official sanction of the British monarchy.
In 1671, Morgan and his men lay siege to the Spanish Fort Castillo de San Lorenzo in Panama. While ultimately successful, he lost his flag ship and several other vessels in the process.
Archaeologists of the wrecks have uncovered a series of wooden planks, 17th century canons, and the odds and ends one would expect on a sea-faring vessel of the day (but no gold). To read more about the find, check out the video and article at MSNBC.
The BP oil spill in the Gulf is currently the greatest ecological disaster in human history – devastating wildlife and gulf-based businesses alike. However, one surprising positive (of the very few) to come out of this tragedy has been that the clean-up has sparked and unprecedented number of archaeological discoveries. Animal bones, weaponry, pottery, and more, attributed to pre-historic native settlements, have been identified.
So far, teams of archaeologists hired by the oil giant have visited more than 100 sites and sent back a growing list of finds to labs for radiocarbon dating and other tests, though extensive excavations haven’t been done. Scholars have also accompanied cleanup crews to make sure they don’t unwittingly throw away relics.
Medical supplies recovered from a ship that went down around 130 BCE off the coast of Tuscany. The ship was recovered in 1974 and excavated in 1989, but it wasn’t until recently that the contents of a series of sealed containers was able to be determined through DNA analysis.
136 tin-lined were revealed to contain a variety of pharmaceuticals used to treat stomach complaints have recently been identified to contain herbs and plants such as celery, onions, carrots, cabbage, alfalfa and chestnuts.
Gino Fornaciari, a paleo-pathologist from Pisa University, said: “As well as understanding how the ancient Romans treated each other, we are learning more about what illnesses they suffered from.”
Advanced sonar techniques are being employed off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina to explore Civil War era shipwrecks located in the area. The researchers are hoping that the new technology will allow them to develop 3D imagery that would permit the public to explore the sites in full without risking damaging to the wrecks themselves (a common danger to under water sites in shallow water).
Researchers hope to eventually map all “Battle of the Atlantic” shipwrecks for public consumption. Right now, they are focused on the USS Cumberland, that was sunk by the CSS Virginia off the coast of Newport News, Virginia, and the CSS Florida, also located off the coast of Virginia. Locals often feel an affinity and connection to the wrecks and are eager to see them preserved for future generations.