Phoenician Shipwreck

    Phoenician Shipwreck​

    In 2007, during an offshore remote sensing survey a small anomaly was picked up in the sonar data, an anomaly that turned out to be a Phoenician shipwreck and one of the most intriguing recent archaeological discoveries in the central Mediterranean.

    Located at a depth of 110 metres outside Xlendi bay, Gozo, the shipwreck consists of a mixed cargo datable to the 7th century BC. This mixed cargo consists of stone and ceramic objects, which represent the to-date only known well-preserved and intact cargo of a Phoenician vessel. The wreck and its cargo are now beginning to shed light on the economic and trade history of the central Mediterranean during the Archaic period. The exploration of the Phoenician shipwreck is another unique component of this site. The presence of close to two metres of archaeological deposit buried in the seabed contributed to the decision to conduct further in-depth investigations, and from 2014 onwards an international team of experts and divers have been exploring the site. These explorations range from 3D photogrammetric surveys, artefact recoveries and in 2018, to the first archaeological excavation at a depth of 110 metres.

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    The Wreck.

    Located at a depth of 110 metres outside Xlendi bay in Gozo, the shipwreck consists of a mixed cargo datable to the 7th century BC.

    Grinding stones

    The stone objects forming part of the mixed cargo of the Phoenician Shipwreck have been identified as grinding stones, consisting of a number of rectangular static quern bases and corresponding oblong shaped mobile stones, identified as rubbing stones. The static grinding stones are trapezoidal in shape, with worked edges and no signs of use, and are located on the outer extremities of the site. Between 2014 and 2017 a number of objects were recovered from the wreck site, including stone querns, which after further analysis of the material composition have been identified as basalt. The basalt has been traced to an area in the north-west of Pantelleria, an island located approximately 110NM from Gozo. The confirmation of Pantelleria as the source of the basalt points towards the archaic date of these querns since the basaltic outcrops on the island were not suitable for production during the Roman period, but were more suited to production of small querns during the archaic period.


    Amongst the most discernible amphorae from the cargo of the Phoenician shipwreck are a number of amphorae characterised by an ovoid shape, a slightly tapered and pointed base and a rounded shoulder, located very high and supporting two rounded and vertical handles. The distinct lack of a neck leads to the rim abutting the shoulder of the amphorae. This particular shape has been linked to the Ramón type amphorae, conforming to western Phoenician productions, where typologies have been established over decades of research. The precise centre of production however, remains difficult to establish, with proposed locations in Western Sicily, Carthage and along the Tunisian coast, and possibly also in Sardinia and Malta, pending further investigation. The chronology of these amphorae is dated to between 700 and 650 BC and is based on comparable examples from the necropolis at Pithecusae on the island of Ischia.


    Amongst the ceramic cargo of the Phoenician wreck is a group of amphorae identified as belonging to the ZITA type, which are characterised by ovoid walls and flat bases, and appear to form the main part of the cargo. These amphorae are characterised by two vertical strap handles that are attached to the shoulder but are separated from the neck, with a distinction also noted between the elevation of the handles in relation to the neck and rim of the amphorae. A number of intact examples have been recovered and the characteristic flat base and high handles excludes an Eastern origin, pointing towards a Western Mediterranean production. A comparable parallel example is from Pithecusae on the island of Ischia, and is dated to the Late Geometric II period (735-700 BC), however, a single parallel does not necessarily provide a secure date.

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