Underwater archaeologists from Soprintendenza del Mare Regione Siciliana, RPM Nautical Foundation and Society for the Documentation of Submerged Sites (SDSS), have excavated two ancient Roman ship ram s made of bronze from the sea. In ancient times, battering rams of this type were used on ships as extremely effective weapons.
Historic artefacts have been linked by researchers to a key battle fought over the Egadi, during the First Punic War. This conflict resulted in Rome’s triumph over Carthage. The Battle of the Egadi Islands, also known as the Battle of the Egadi Islands, was a naval clash that occurred off the western coast of Sicily on 10 March 241 BC.
The chronicles preserve records by ancient authors of the size and scale of the battle. Thus we know that hundreds of ships took part, battering each other as Carthaginian forces tried to break through the Roman line. The aim of the Carthaginians was to reach and resupply the army on the Sicilian mainland.
The Romans had much greater mobility. All because their ships carried only the most necessary items. The Carthaginians, on the other hand, were burdened with the equipment necessary for the long journey and provisions for the Sicilian garrisons. After the Roman victory, Carthage signed a treaty in which it surrendered Sicily to Rome and paid substantial reparations.
From aboard the research vessel Hercules, archaeologists are conducting underwater surveys of the battle site. For this, researchers are using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to map the seabed. In turn, they conduct detailed inspections of individual sites using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The entire study area covers 270 km2, with the main battlefield extending over 12 km2.
During the 2021 survey season, archaeologists explored the area at the northern and eastern edges of the battlefield. As a result, they discovered another two ancient Roman bronze ship ram s. Excavated from the water, they will join the four battering rams found a year earlier. In total, 25 such relics have already been excavated during the entire project. In addition, archaeologists have also found dozens of deadly lead slingshot bullets, several bronze helmets and Greek coins.
In the same place where the Romans and Carthaginians fought a battle, archaeologists found an unusually large wreck of a merchant ship. The vessel was carrying amphorae produced in Lusitania (present-day Portugal) and Baetica (Spain), dating to the first half of the 4th century AD.
Director of Soprintendenza del Mare, the government agency that oversees underwater cultural heritage in Sicily, Valeria Li Vigni, said:
Together with results from previous years, the discoveries we made this summer paint an even clearer picture of the Battle of the Egads, which is by far the best documented naval battle from an archaeological perspective.
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