14 July 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Archaeologists discovered on Tunisian coast three shipwrecks, one of which 2,000 years old

A team of archaeologists from eight countries—Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, France, Italy, Morocco, Spain, and Tunisia bordering the Mediterranean Sea has come together to scrutinize shipwrecks sitting at the bottom of the water body sitting between them. The researchers, coordinated by UNESCO, found three new shipwrecks.

In the largest and most ambitious international mission ever conducted, experts mapped an area of seabed 10km square in an effort to study and protect their shared underwater cultural heritage.

The remains of six shipwrecks from antiquity to the 20th century were documented using two robots and multibeam sonar. Three of the shipwrecks were previously unknown.

One wreck dates to between 100 BCE and 200 CE and two date from around the turn of the 20th century. The researchers presented their findings today in a press conference at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Archaeologists specifically investigated the continental shelves off Tunisia and Sicily, as part of distinct projects led by Tunisia and Italy, respectively.

One of the new shipwrecks discovered on the Skerki Bank. Photo: Unesco
One of the new shipwrecks discovered on the Skerki Bank. Photo: Unesco

The newly discovered shipwrecks sit near Keith Reef, a particularly treacherous region of the Skerki Bank. Keith Reef makes it challenging for ships, both ancient and modern, to navigate at certain points where it almost touches the Mediterranean’s surface. The new research clearly shows that some ships were a failure.

The shallow reef is situated in one of the busiest maritime routes in the Mediterranean, which has been used for millennia. It’s no surprise that ships have sunk there, or that looters have found it to be a lucrative hunting ground.

“When we found the new ships it was a [feeling] of relief because of all the effort we have all put in and that there are still things to learn from such a heavily looted area and that there is still something to protect,” Alison Faynot, an archaeologist with UNESCO, told The National.

“Underwater heritage is very important. You think it is extremely protected and unreachable and yet it is quite fragile, and just a change in the environment or seabed can have a very dangerous impact on it.”

The investigation of Sicily followed the work of marine archaeologists Anna McCann and Robert Ballard, who between 1998 and 2000 discovered eight stranded wrecks on the Italian continental shelf.

A shipwreck discovered by Unesco. Photo: Unesco
A shipwreck discovered by Unesco. Photo: Unesco

Three Roman wrecks discovered on the Italian continental shelf during the Ballard-McCann expeditions from the 1980s to the 2000s were also documented in high-resolution images by Arthur, a robot weighing less than 80kg and capable of going 2,500 meters deep.

The mission’s goal was to delineate the precise zone in which many shipwrecks lie and to document as many artifacts as possible because such underwater heritage is vulnerable to exploitation, trawling and fishing, trafficking, and the effects of climate change.

“The mission was possible due to France giving us access to its ship and robots which can go really deep. The technology available made it possible for us to do this work,”  Ms Faynot said.

The two robots took more than 20,000 images and recorded 400 hours of video.

The research vessel the Alfred Merlin, equipped with high-tech underwater imaging and mapping equipment, from which an international team discovered three new shipwrecks on the Skerki Bank. Photo: M Pradinaud

Related Articles

Pompeii Reopening Antiquarium

6 February 2021

6 February 2021

The Antiquarium, a permanent museum within the Pompeii Archaeological pact, reopens. Opened in 1873, the Antiquarium was bombed during World...

For the first time in Turkish history, a gold belt buckle depicted the face of a Göktürk Khagan found

19 December 2023

19 December 2023

A social complex (Külliye) and new artifacts from the Western Gokturk period were discovered in Kazakhstan. Among these items, a...

Zeus Temple’s entrance was found in western Turkey’s Aizanoi Ancient City

31 July 2021

31 July 2021

During recent digs, the monumental entrance gate of the Zeus Temple sanctuary in the ancient city of Aizanoi, located in...

Archaeologists have unearthed a flawless Roman blue glass bowl in the Dutch city of Nijmegen

23 January 2022

23 January 2022

Archaeologists excavating the site of a comprehensive housing and green space development in Nijmegen’s Winkelsteeg, one of the oldest cities...

Coin hoard found in fireplace ‘belonging to Scottish clan chief’ murdered at infamous Glencoe Massacre

17 October 2023

17 October 2023 1

Coins believed to have belonged to a Scottish clan chief murdered in an infamous 17th-century Glencoe massacre, have been found...

Ming-era two shipwrecks found in South China Sea

23 May 2023

23 May 2023

In the South China Sea, two ancient shipwrecks that date back to the middle of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) were...

Ice Age turtle finds near Magdeburg point to canned food from the Stone Age

2 May 2024

2 May 2024

Experts have recovered around 50,000-year-old turtle shell fragments from the Barleben-Adamsee gravel pit near Magdeburg. The turtles could have been...

A woman who had brain surgery 9500 years ago will be brought revived

12 September 2021

12 September 2021

A “revival” effort is underway on a woman’s skull unearthed in 1989 during archaeological digs at the Aşıklı Mound in...

Archaeologists discover 1,300-year-old ski trapped in Norwegian ice

6 October 2021

6 October 2021

The melting of an ice sheet in Norway has uncovered a pair of remarkably well-preserved skis that had been undisturbed...

In the Mediterranean Oldest Hand-Sewn Boat is Preparing for its Next Journey

25 January 2024

25 January 2024

The oldest hand-sewn boat in the Mediterranean was discovered in the Bay of Zambratija near Umag on Croatia’s Istrian peninsula....

Queen of Seas Who Challenged Rome: ‘Queen Teuta’

31 October 2023

31 October 2023

Illyrian Queen Teuta is one of the most extraordinary figures of Illyrian antiquity and of Albanian heritage. She was also...

In Medieval burial ground, a rare embroidered Deisis depicting Jesus Christ was discovered

26 February 2023

26 February 2023

Russian archaeologists have uncovered a rare embroidered Deisis depicting Jesus Christ in a medieval burial ground. 46 graves have been...

The first time in Anatolia, a legionnaires’ cemetery belonging to the Roman Empire unearthed

18 November 2022

18 November 2022

In the ancient city of Satala, in the Kelkit district of Gümüşhane in the Eastern Black Sea region of Turkey,...

Archaeologists discovered the earliest Iron Age house in Athens and Attica

26 May 2023

26 May 2023

A research team from the University of Göttingen discovered the earliest  Iron Age house in Athens and Attica. Archaeologists from...

Archaeologists identify three new Roman camps in Arabia

27 April 2023

27 April 2023

Through remote sensing analysis, archaeologists have identified three new Roman fortified camps throughout northern Arabia. Their study, released today in...