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.
The Washington Post reports that the museum’s curator, Julian Raby, has formally put the exhibit on hold to further consult with professional archaeologists and organizations. The concern for displaying artifacts procured via looting is that it continues to support the illegal trade and furthers the demand for materials regardless of the legality in how the objects are obtained. To read more about the decision, check out the Washington Post article.
Recently, the American Institute of Archaeology (AIA) has issued a formal statement opposing the Smithsonian’s display of these artifacts. I have included the statement in its entirety below. You can also read it in its entirety here.
As the largest and oldest organization devoted to archaeology in North America, the Archaeological Institute of America is committed to the protection of the world’s cultural heritage. As part of this commitment we strongly oppose the commercial salvage of antiquities and any exploitation of archaeological materials obtained in this manner.
The Belitung Shipwreck was salvaged unscientifically by commercially-motivated treasure hunters. Although the excavation and disposition of these materials may be technically “legal,” it is the AIA’s position that involvement by the Smithsonian Institution in the exhibition of these artifacts will serve to blur the distinction between bona fide nautical archaeology and treasure huntng. Following this path puts the Smithsonian in the indefensible position of aiding those who believe that antiquities are a commodity to be mined for personal or corporate financial gain. They are not—they are part of the world’s cultural patrimony.
As the premier museum of the United States and the largest museum and research institution in the world, the Smithsonian is a model for others and should endorse the highest ethical standards for American archaeological and museological practice. The AIA urges the Smithsonian’s leadership to heed the voices of archaeologists worldwide—including many within its own walls—in cancelling the plans for any exhibition of the Belitung shipwreck and its artifacts. To proceed with plans to display these objects will increase the risk to other equally valuable shipwrecks that have yet to be discovered.
Archaeologists have formally confirmed that the ship being excavated off of the coast of North Carolina is Blackbeard’s flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. The Queen Anne’s Revenge was grounded and ultimately sunk in 1718 when Blackbeard (aka Edward Teach) left Charleston harbor, refusing a pardon offered by the Governor.
The wreck was rediscovered in 1996 and subsequently excavated starting in 2001 by the Queen Anne’s Revenge Shipwreck Project. To read more about the wreck and the confirmation that this was indeed Blackbeard’s flagship, read this article in the Sacramento Bee.
Last year, historians and archaeologists were excited and curious when the ground zero excavations uncovered an 18th century ship wreck. Now the material has all been removed and put into storage, preserving the delicate timbers, allowing scientists to begin their investigations on the mysterious artifact.
The ship has been dubbed the USS Adrian, after the lead excavator of the site. In spite of all of the attention and effort in its investigation, little is known about the ship including its origin and purposes.
“This shipwreck gives us a glimpse of the past—the last chapter in a complex story. We can start rebuilding and rewriting those other chapters of a ship’s life by doing things like dendrochronology,” says tree-ring specialist Pearce Paul Creasman of the University of Arizona, in Tucson.
Specialists are working on identifying its age and original provenance. Read more about the excavation in this article in Scientific American and view the slideshow here.
Discovery News has written more about the Roman Shipwreck (termed the Grado wreck) off the coast of Italy. I wrote about the shipwreck in an earlier post: “Shipwreck Had Onboard Fish Tanks.” The wreck seems to support historical accounts that the Romans transported live fish across the sea.
the scientist and historian Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 A.D.), wrote that live parrotfish were shipped from the Black Sea to the Neapolitan coast in order to introduce the species into the Tyrrhenian Sea.