Friday, February 03, 2006

Friday Archaeology Blogging

The beginning of a grand tradition at Oi! Thump!? Probably not, knowing our work-ethic, but we'll give 'er a try.

Robot spots ancient Greek shipwreck
Vessel laden with wine and oil went down 2,300 years ago
By Ker Than
Updated: 5:47 p.m. ET Feb. 2, 2006

The remains of an ancient Greek cargo ship that sank more than 2,300 years ago have been uncovered with a deep-sea robot, archaeologists announced Thursday.

Here's more on this:

Deep-sea robot photographs ancient Greek shipwreck
Deborah Halber, News Office Correspondent
February 2, 2006

Sometime in the fourth century B.C., a Greek merchant ship sank off Chios and the Oinoussai islands in the eastern Aegean Sea. The wooden vessel may have succumbed to a storm or a fire, or maybe rough weather caused the cargo of 400 ceramic jars filled with wine and olive oil to shift without warning. The ship went down in 60 meters (about 200 feet) of water, where it remained unnoticed for centuries.

Ok, so what can this tell us? Well, first of all, wine and oil amphorae were often stamped with a "maker's mark":

While these don't necessarily give one the origin of a specific cargo, they do tell us where the amphora was made, and this knowledge can obviously help in putting together a larger picture of trade in a certain region. For example, if you're finding Spanish amphorae all over the place in, say, the region of Cyprus, you can pretty much safely say that there was some sort of exchange going on between those two regions, whether or not the vessels were later being re-used for more local commerce. Furthermore, there's a chance, albeit a slim one, that some of the amphora contents may have survived, and chemical analysis can help pinpoint the exact origin of the material. As far as the ship itself is concerned, I couldn't tell from any of the pictures how intact it was, but archaeologists may be able to work out its dimensions, and at least some of the details of its appearance. It probably looked not unlike this:

In short, this wreck has the potential to yield some interesting new data on what exactly was going on in the Aegean area about the time that Philip of Macedon...

...was moving onto the scene, and the last vestiges of what had been the "Golden Age" of Greece were fading away.

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