More questions raised by the latest discoveries aboard the Phoenician shipwreck near Gozo
Tests indicate that the cargo must have included Gozitan honey
The oldest shipwreck ever found in Central Mediterranean, located to the west of the Maltese island of Gozo and dated to 2,700 years ago is proving to be a treasure trove. University of Malta archaeologists have retrieved a number of amphorae and urns, the likes of which have not been documented before. Scientific analysis conducted in laboratories have indicated that the cargo on board must have also included Gozitan honey.
The Phoenician shipwreck lies over 100 metres below sea-level. Over the past decade, Dr Timmy Gambin, an archaeologist from the Department of Classics and Archaeology at the University of Malta, has been documenting the site, re-creating three dimensional imagery, and retrieving select objects from its cargo which includes grinding-stones carved out of volcanic rock.
Dr Gambin managed to retrieve an amphora, previously identified from photos as possibly of Greek origin. “The shape of this amphora is unlike whatever we have seen before, Nothing like it has ever been documented so it is not a case of going back to the literature and compare it with what we have in stock. We know nothing about its provenance as yet and the fact that we have retrieved the amphora intact means that we cannot look at the provenance of the clay thus making it all the harder to establish its origin”.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, a series of scientific tests conducted on the insides of the amphorae recovered in the past years, have identified traces of honey produced locally. If confirmed such discoveries can throw further light on the Maltese economy and on merchant routes from 2,700 years ago.
Dr Gambin said: “These discoveries strengthen our conviction that this Phoenician merchantman had been following a Central Mediterranean route and had been loading and unloading cargo across different ports. Most probably it had just taken on board a cargo of Gozitan produce on its way to North Africa before meeting its fate”. Archaeologists’ target is that next year they will start excavations and hope they will retrieve parts of the cargo which lie under the sea bed.
“We have evidence that there is more to this shipwreck than meets the eye. There must be more layers of pottery. We want to retrieve some, and we would also like to recover a sample of wood from the hull of the ship itself. This could possibly be a first for maritime archaeology”, Dr Gambin added.
Meanwhile, the University of Malta, Heritage Malta and the Gozo Ministry are collaborating so that an exhibition will he held in the beginning of next year on objects which have already been retrieved from what is considered at the most ancient Phoenician relic ever found in Central Mediterranean.