Wrecks & shipfinds of the Mediterranean
3. Byzantine, Medieval and later
This section starts after the collapse of the Roman Empire
in 395 AD. If modern shipping seems impressing, remember that the huge shipping volume of
Roman times was not exceeded until maybe the 17th century AD.
Tantura Lagoon "shipwreck A" and others,
Israel. Investigated by Shelley Wachsmann since 1994. Wreck A is dated to 5th-6th century AD. The
place is a natural harbour, where several wrecks have been found.
- The Church wreck
(Marzamemi II). Merchant ship found on 9 m depth off Marzamemi, Sicily. Dated to early 6th century
AD. Investigated 1960-67 by Gerhard Kapitän and others. Among the the cargo were pre-fabricated
marble parts intended for a church, including an altar and a pulpit. Possibly this transport was
going from Constantinople to Italy. Ref G.F. Bass: A History of Seafaring.
Longarini wreck, Sicily. Large c 30 m long trading ship embedded on land in the beach, dated
to 6th c AD or perhaps earlier. Discovered in the 1960s, damaged by a bulldozer, but finally
investigated by Peter Throckmorton and Gerhard Kapitän. The ship had a flat transom stern. Ref
Archaeology vol 21 no 3 1968 and G.F. Bass: A History of Seafaring.
Cefalù wreck, Sicily. Byzantine ship dated to mid-6th century AD. The investigation was
complicated because the site was contaminated with wrecks from different ages.
One more photo. Photo courtesy Gianfranco Purpura, University
Byzantine ship, Bodrum (Helicarnassos), Turkey. Appr 625 AD, ca 30 m long, carried 11 anchors
and was loaded with ca 800 amphoras. Investigated by G. F. Bass, INA, in 1961–64. During the
excavation, an ingenious "phone booth" was placed on 37 m depth, with voice contact to the surface.
Partially reconstructed in the Bodrum Museum. Ref
National Geographic May 1960, July 1963 & Sept 1968.
Bozburun Byzantine ship, Turkey.
Located in 1973 on c 30 m depth at the base of a cliff. Possibly
from 9th century AD. Loaded with 1200–1500 amphoras. Investigated 1995-1997 by
Fred Hocker and the INA. Due to weather conditions a two floored platform
was constructed near the archeological site. Photo courtesy INA.
Agay wreck. French south coast. Located on 40-50 m depth, investigated from
1968. The ship was a merchant vessel, probably Arab.
Serçe Limani wreck,
Turkey. 15 m long merchant ship, dated to ca 1024 AD. Discovered in 1973 by G. F. Bass, INA. The
lower part of the hull was built with the shell-first method and the upper part with the frame-first
(skeleton) method. The ship had two masts and carried 8 anchors. Loaded with glass, Byzantine
amphoras, as well as gaming pieces for chess and backgammon. Ref National Geographic, June
1978 and IJNA 7.2 1978 & 11.1.1982.
wreck, Catalonia, Spain. Dated to late 13th century AD.
Investigated 1998-90. The ship was loaded with north African ceramics. Under the
cargo, the lower part of the hull was very well preserved. The ship may have been 16 m
long with two masts. Ref Marcel Pujol i Hamelink.
- Les Sorres X. Ship found at the coast of Catalonia,
Spain. Dated to 1350-1400 AD.
- Lake Garda galley. War galley built in 1439, sunk in 1509. Found by Enrico Scandurra well
preserved in Lago di Garda on 32 m depth. Described in Antiquity, vol 40, 1966.
Genovese ship sunk in 1516, loaded with artillery. Discovered in 1979 on 20 m depth off
Villefranche-sur-mer, France. Excavated by Max Guérout 1982-90. Lower parts of the hull were
preserved in the bottom sand, together with the cargo.
Investigated further in 2002. A special
exhibition was displayed during 2002 at the Musée d'archéologie d'Antibes, France. The reconstruction
model is from that exhibition, photo by Per Åkesson. Ref B. M. Encyclopaedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology.
- Yassi Ada Ottoman ship, Bodrum (Helicarnassos), Turkey. Probable warship from late 16th
century, ca 22 m long. Investigated by the INA in 1967, '69 and '82-'83. Ref Archaeology vol
21 no 3 1968, and B. M. Encyclopaedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology.
- L'Orient. Built in 1791, 63 m long. French 120 gun warship that
exploded and sank at the battle of Aboukir in 1798 off Alexandria,
Egypt. The scattered remains were discovered by Jacques Dumas in 1983 and investigated 1996-98. The
14 m long rudder braced in bronze has been recovered. Illustration by
Axel Nelson. Ref B. M. Encyclopaedia of Underwater and
- Mentor. This wrecked brig probably has little significance, except for its role in land
archaeology. In 1802 Thomas Bruce, Earl of Elgin, removed the
frieze of Pheidias from Parthenon in
Athens. That would today be considered looting. On its way to London, the ship Mentor sank off
Kythera Island (punishment from the gods?). Eventually the frieze was salvaged, and is now in the
- AE2. Australian submarine scuttled in
1915 at Gallipoli, Turkey. Discovered in 1996.
- Britannic. British Passenger ship built in 1914, belonging to the White Star Line, sister
ship to Titanic and Olympic. Serving as hospital ship, sunk in 1916 off the island
Kea, Greece. The well preserved wreck was located, using side scan sonar, in 1976 by Jacques-Yves
Cousteau on 115 m depth, who filmed there and dived using trimix. It is still a mystery whether she
was sunk by a German mine or torpedo. Also whether the sinking was intentional or accidental.
- Le Souffleur. French submarine
built in 1927. Sunk off Lebanon in 1941.
- German transport ship, Tunisia. Unidentified remains of German ship that exploded and sank
on 18 m depth, possibly in 1942. There is not much to see except for scattered hull fragments and
parts of a truck/lorry from the cargo. However, this is one of the few wrecks available for
recreational diving in Tunisia. Diving is operated by the Centre Plongée in Port Kantaoui near
Sousse. When I was there in 1999 a dive was about USD 25 including all gear.
- Zenobia. Swedish
cargo ship loaded with new trucks, sunk off Cyprus in 1980. No archaeological significance but
popular among scuba divers.
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