Date: Oct. 2003, Oct. 2005
Area: Punta di Rondinara, passage between the islands Lavezzi and Cavallo and the bay Santa Manza
Goal: Search for Roman Age wrecksites, analysis of post-medieval pottery and salvage of a Late Republican anchor stock for the Museum of Sarténe.
Type: Survey and excavation
Project leader: Dr. Hanz Günter Martin
Project partner: DRASSM
- Galasso, M. Keramik aus dem Golf von Santa Manza (Südost-Korsika), in: SKYLLIS 4.2. 2001 (Pretzfeld, 2004) p. 192-196. view article >
- Martin, H.G. Korsika 2003: Vorbericht zu einer Campagne der DEGUWA, in: SKYLLIS 5.2. 2002 (Pretzfeld, 2005) p. 156-165.
Author: Dr. Hanz Günter Martin
In October 2003 the DEGUWA launched a 14-days campaign off the southeastern coast of Corsica. The team consisted of the following DEGUWA-members: Barbara Ditze, Mario Galasso, Frank Lappe, Frank Lechner, Jürgen Nickel, Michael Rauter, Wolfgang Schultheis, Günter Waigand, Peter Winterstein und Alfred Zeischka.
Three sites were selected for close investigation:
1. Punta di Rondinara
2. The passage between the Isles of Lavezzi and Cavallo
3. The bay of Santa Manza
Punta di Rondinara
Some remains from shipwrecks have accumulated in a small and relatively sheltered corner off Punta die Rondinara. Particularly interesting are fragments of laterepublican Roman transport amphorae of the type Dressel 2/4 in coherence with the finding of a dolium, a large clay keg, which mouth stuck in the sand. We have surveyed the bay with a sonar and after having examined the results we selected an auspicious spot for a sondage. For the removal of the sand we used a suction pump, which was developed 1996 for Ognina by our unit for technique.
It was specially developed for this project by our DEGUWA member Andreas Haardt and other engineers of the company Grundfos. It was manufactured by this company, powered by a titan motor, and lent to the DEGUWA for usage.
Our sondage yielded some unspecified metal pieces from a modern shipwreck. Roman remains were not encountered. Finally we had to abort the sondage due to bad weather conditions.
The passage between the Isles of Lavezzi and Cavallo
The task: From a depth of 18 meters we had to salvage a leaden anchor stock and to bring it to the responsible local museum of Sartène in Corsica.
The anchor stock proved to be particularly interesting, as it featured a relatively distinct inscription. There were probably even more inscriptions, but this will be revealed once the conservators have cleaned it. Judging its shape the anchor was late-republican ca. 2nd century BC, with all reservations that need to be taken into account for typological dating.
The inscription on the anchor is in Greek, I presently decipher it as "Syneresis". The sheer size of the anchor is remarkable. It might have been the so-called "holy" or "last" anchor. Normally a merchantman carried four anchors on board and one additionally, which was the largest and heaviest and which was virtually never used unless under utmost threat. It was not only the largest, but also the most superb anchor and featured probably the vessel's name.
The fact that only so few remains of this shipwreck were found, aside from treasure-hunting as possible cause, is not astonishing in regard of the strong local currents. Only material that has deposited behind the sheltering rock remained.
The bay of Santa Manza
At first glance it was noticeable that the bay of Santa Manza, which was sheltered from onshore winds, contained scatters of medieval and post-medieval ceramics of the same vessel type, namely a bowl or deep plate of 22 cm diameter that was decorated in green and yellow colour with floral design, occasionally with a bird as central motif. This raised the question if they got there in the course of an intentional or unintentional deposition or if they were part of the cargo of a shipwrecked vessel.
We surveyed the environs with the sub-bottom profiler of the company "SoSo Jena" and after evaluating the data we made a test trench. The surface layer was removed with an airlift built by Günther Weigand, which facilitated a brisk progress. Later we carried on with hand-fanning. The sondage yielded immediately a promising result: In two days of excavating the 6m x 2m trench over 250 objects were registered. In coherence with the results of the sonar-data this makes it feasibly that it is not randomly deposited but points to a wreck-site or at least a large portion of it. The spot, where we excavated the (tentatively called) wreck, contained largely fragments of the very same bowl type. Differences consisted only in the decoration. Hence we classified the material according to the distinguishing features, i.e. birds, bushes, wind wheel etc.
Finally we had to return to Santa Manza to analyse the fragments in order to determine the material and to search for further indications for dating the ceramic. We have found already a promising part to this jigsaw; amidst the ceramic under the surface we have found a piece of wood which was without doubt a part of this ship, we search the rest later.
I thank my team for the selfless cooperation of each individual member. We are indebted to Günter Hayer and Rüdiger, who provided on their diving vessel "Galiote" prime working conditions and excellent lodging. The DEGUWA is grateful to DRASSM, particularly to Dr. Hélène Bernard for the excavation permission and supervision. Moreover we thank the company Grundfos sincerely for its generosity.
Author: Dr. Hanz Günter Martin
By the end of September and the beginning of October the DEGUWA has carried out an underwater excavation in the bay of Santa Manza on Corsica. This site had been investigated two years before by the DEGUWA.
We had found a lot of small plates and shallow bowls, which were later identified as Tuscan ceramic of between 1750 and 1830 and which is known as catinelle (cf. Skyllis 5, 2002, 156-65). At that time it was not possible to say something definite how the ceramic got there. Are we dealing with a shipwreck or were the plates deposited by coincidence here? We had excavated a single test trench, which confirmed that the scattered finds were not coincidentally but in a higher concentration, although it was not possible yet to estimate the extent of the site.
Before the actual excavation Dr. Klaus Storch and myself went therefore to Santa Manza in order to investigate the site thoroughly with a sub-bottom profiler. Despite some heavy rains the survey yielded excellent results. Hence we were not only able to assess the extent of the cargo, but it also became apparent that a ship once lay next to the cargo. It became clear that a ship has definitely sunk here. It has capsized and its cargo has scattered over the sea-bed.
When the team arrived we made 'Galiote' shipshape in Bonifacio with our captain Günter Hayer and later anchored in the sheltered bay of Santa Manza. The team consisted of Christian Beck, M.Eng. (first week), Dr. Mario Galasso, Gerd Knepel, M.Eng., Frank Lappe, M.Eng., Frank Lechner, M.Eng., Sabrina Lorenz, Jürgen Nickel, M.Eng., Dr. Mario Palermo, Wolfgang Schultheis, M.Eng., Dr. Klaus Storch, Günter Waigand and myself.
From our experience of the last two years we knew that the use of an airlift is very efficient, but that problems occurred whenever it was started: The jerk exerted by the initial blast - i.e. the moment when compressed air enters the hose - could virtually not be kept under control. In order to start the airlift one had to cover the inlet with all weight and one was nevertheless caught in a situation which resembles bull riding on a rodeo. Günther Waigand and Peter Winterstein have therefore developed and constructed a platform, from which a solid hose goes to the sea-bed, weighted down by a massive metal block and provided with a coupling onto which the actual hose could be fastened. Hence the hose lay horizontally on the sea-bed and the initial jerk was eliminated. Many thanks for this invention! It works so well that we almost consider to have it patented.
Research vessel with platform and the site (red buoy in the foreground) Preparing for action! On the basis of the sub-bottom profiler data we laid out the grid for three test trenches under water. We anticipated that they would yield the extent of the scattered cargo and the nature of the wreck. The work quota was tremendous for only scheduled 14 days and normally we operated both airlift and water-dredge simultaneously.
The titanium water-dredge, which was specially designed for the DEGUWA by the company Grundfos, was mentioned already in my last report two years ago. Due to the incessant work, three to four people were either under water or on the platform, which meant that we never had the opportunity for a common lunch. This taxed our cook's patience, who did not wanted to let us dive without a proper meal. Many thanks to Rüdiger for his patience!
The sections 1 and 2, which were laid from the centre to the northern or southern verge of the cargo, yielded at the whole what we expected. Within and beneath a thick layer of eel grass with lots of fragments of our catinelle, the ceramic from Montelupo. Up to a depth of 1.80m beneath this layer we encountered no more finds. This proves that only this ship foundered here and that we have no contaminated site (i.e. no "ship-smears"). However we were surprised by what we found just beneath the ceramic rich layer: A thick stack of snail-shells spread over the same dimensions as the cargo. Although they occurred also outside the cargo scatters, they were nevertheless not so densely concentrated. Basically it was a layer with a thickness of ca. 20 cm, which was solely composed of snail-shells that stuck together. The biological term for this type is cerithium vulgatum, which is widespread in the Mediterranean and also not unusual at this spot. However there must be a connection between the snails and the cargo. Either they were part of the cargo - there are examples for the use of snails for medical use as well as for the extraction of colours - or part of the cargo was so attractive and delicious that generations of snails accumulated here to consume it over time. We do not know the period in which these thousands of snails accumulated here though. The age of several selected specimen will be determined in a laboratory. For the time being this "snail-find" is shrouded in mystery and we would be grateful for any hints.
What is going to happen next? The DEGUWA plans to carry out a last campaign in Santa Manza in order to tackle the remaining questions. The focus lies on the wreck itself, of which we only know the position but not its constructional features. Hopefully we will be able to determine the ship-type.