Press release
July 24, 2012

Contacts

Mahaut Tyrrell
Media relations officer
Cultural development and communication
01 40 08 80 24 

Vincent Charpentier
Director of media relations and partnerships
Cultural development and communication, Inrap, 01 40 08 80 16 

Cécile Martinez
Cultural development and communication
Inrap, direction interrégionale Méditerranée
06 87 01 62 86 

A Roman shipwreck in the Antique port of Antibes

On line since August 30, 2012 · Updated August 30, 2012
A team of Inrap archaeologists is currently excavating part of the Antique port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes). This research, curated by the State (Drac Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur), is being conducted in advance of the construction of an underground parking lot by QPark. The archaeologists will work for seven months at the site of "Pré aux Pêcheurs”.
Zoom:The Antique Antipolis…
L’épave romaine dans le port antique d’Antibes

The Antique Antipolis…

Antibes is the Antique Antipolis, a Greek trading post founded by the Phocaeans of Massalia. The date of its establishment is still uncertain, but it followed an indigenous habitat located in the high areas of the current city. Along the Provençal shoreline, Antipolis occupied an advantageous location on the maritime routes linking Marseille to the Italian coast. Like the Saint-Roch cove, it had a natural port that was protected from the dominant winds. The prosperity of the Greek and then Roman city was largely based on the dynamic activity of its maritime commerce, as well as on the transformation of sea products, fish salting and the fabrication of garum (a fish based sauce).

… and its port

The archaeologists are currently exploring, over 5000 m2, the bottom of an Antique port basin, which was progressively covered with sand. This obvious waste dump has yielded many objects – waste thrown from mooring boats or bits of cargo lost during transshipments – and provides information on the daily activities of the sailors and the maritime commerce. The layers of archaeological objects have been accumulating since the 3rd century BC until the 6th century AD. Several tens of thousands of objects of all kinds that were sunken underwater in the Saint-Roch cove have already been recovered, including merchandise originating from periphery of the Mediterranean basin. They alone illustrate the dynamic nature of the Antique port and commerce in this part of the Mediterranean.
The sediments excavated were located under the sea level and were not dried until the construction of the parking lot. These specific anaerobic conditions contributed to the preservation of organic materials and thus allowed the recovery of objects that are not preserved in excavations on land, including amphora corks, leather shoe soles and wood objects.

The shipwreck

In the last area explored by the Inrap archaeologists, the wreck of a Roman vessel was discovered. The boat, preserved over more than 15 m in length, is lying on its side in a shallow area (less than 1.6 m under the Antique sea level). In the context of a partnership with the Centre Camille Jullian, Inrap and a CNRS naval archaeology specialist are collaborating in the analysis and interpretation of this discovery.
The remains consist of a keel and several boards that covered the hull, held together by thousands of pegs inserted into sheave slots cut into the thickness of the boards. Around forty transverse ribs are present, some of which were attached to the keel with metallic pins.
Elements of the ceiling were also identified. The keelson, which served to house the foot of the mast, was not preserved. This vessel was a medium-sized commercial sailboat (20/22 m long, 6/7 m wide, height of the hold approximately 3 m). Conifer was the main wood used in its construction. The wood knots of the hull were reinforced by plaques of lead held in place by small nails. These plaques compensated for the faults of a medium quality wood, which was used for the construction of this vessel because is was easily available and accessible. The tool traces are clearly visible (saw and adze), as is the pitch that was used to protect the hull. These architectural features support the date indicated by the stratigraphy and pottery elements recovered in the levels accumulated after the boat was abandoned – the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD – and allow the vessel to be attributed to the Imperial Roman ships of the western Mediterranean.

The cause of its sinking is still unknown. Did it crash against the shore during a storm? Was it abandoned to rot in a corner of the port? Was it purposefully sunk to serve as a base for a wharf? These two latter hypotheses could explain the absence of cargo. The continuing investigations will surely reveal the answer.

Developer

QPark Serimo

Curation

Service régional de l’archéologie (Drac Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)

Site director

Isabelle Daveau, Inrap

Naval archaeology

Giulia Boetto, Centre Camille Jullian, CNRS

Photos album

  • Roman ship being dismantled in Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes), 2012. With its restoration in mind, the boat was dismantled piece by piece in collaboration with ARC-Nucléart.
    Roman ship being dismantled in Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes), 2012. With its restoration in mind, the boat was dismantled piece by piece in collaboration with ARC-Nucléart.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • The surface of the underground parking lot of Pré aux Pêcheurs covers 5000 sq. m. It is located in the present-day yacht harbour of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence).Excavation began in March 2012 at the parking lot's eastern extremity.
    The surface of the underground parking lot of Pré aux Pêcheurs covers 5000 sq. m. It is located in the present-day yacht harbour of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence).
    Excavation began in March 2012 at the parking lot's eastern extremity.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • Clearing of a rubbish dump level at the bottom of the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.The bottom of the harbour basin, which gradually became silted, revealed tens of thousands of objects which were distributed among various stratigraphic levels dated to the time span between the third century BCE and the sixth century AD.
    Clearing of a rubbish dump level at the bottom of the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    The bottom of the harbour basin, which gradually became silted, revealed tens of thousands of objects which were distributed among various stratigraphic levels dated to the time span between the third century BCE and the sixth century AD.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • Excavation of a rubbish dump level at the bottom of ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.Thousands of objects were uncovered: refuse, flotsam and jetsam, thrown from mooring boats or pieces of cargo lost during transshipment.
    Excavation of a rubbish dump level at the bottom of ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    Thousands of objects were uncovered: refuse, flotsam and jetsam, thrown from mooring boats or pieces of cargo lost during transshipment.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • View of a rubbish dump level of the 4th century AD, from the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.These objects, which sunk in the waters of the Saint-Roch cove, illustrate the intensity of sea trade in the Western Mediterranean.
    View of a rubbish dump level of the 4th century AD, from the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    These objects, which sunk in the waters of the Saint-Roch cove, illustrate the intensity of sea trade in the Western Mediterranean.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • Rubbish dump level with, in the foreground, an amphora, ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.Thousands of objects coming from the Mediterranean perimeter have already been unearthed by now. The prosperity of the Greek and then Roman city of Antibes rested ^partly of the transformation of marine resources and their commercialization.
    Rubbish dump level with, in the foreground, an amphora, ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    Thousands of objects coming from the Mediterranean perimeter have already been unearthed by now. The prosperity of the Greek and then Roman city of Antibes rested ^partly of the transformation of marine resources and their commercialization.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • Detailed view of an amphora emerging from a rubbish dump level, ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    Detailed view of an amphora emerging from a rubbish dump level, ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • Metal mesh for the washing of finds uncovered during the excavation of the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    Metal mesh for the washing of finds uncovered during the excavation of the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • Cleaning of an oil lamp, ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    Cleaning of an oil lamp, ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • Two amphoriskoi (on the left) and fragments of Terra sigillata found in rubbish dump levels of the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012. Abnormal quantities of archaeological small finds and material were unearthed during this excavation.
    Two amphoriskoi (on the left) and fragments of Terra sigillata found in rubbish dump levels of the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012. Abnormal quantities of archaeological small finds and material were unearthed during this excavation.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • Washing pottery, ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    Washing pottery, ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • Three amphoriskoi (small sized vessels in the shape of amphoras, containing perfumes or ointments), from the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritime, Provence), 2012.
    Three amphoriskoi (small sized vessels in the shape of amphoras, containing perfumes or ointments), from the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritime, Provence), 2012.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • First exploratory sounding on the Roman shipwreck in the ancient  port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    First exploratory sounding on the Roman shipwreck in the ancient  port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • Discussion around the first exploratory sounding of the Roman shipwreck, ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.One can notice in the foreground metal rods linking the ship's ribs to the keel.
    Discussion around the first exploratory sounding of the Roman shipwreck, ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    One can notice in the foreground metal rods linking the ship's ribs to the keel.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • Drawing with a 3D scanner of the Roman shipwreck made by the Sintégra company, in the ancient port of ANtibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.Preserved over a length of more than 15 m, the boat was found lying on its flank in a shallow location, less than 1.60 m under the ancient sea level.
    Drawing with a 3D scanner of the Roman shipwreck made by the Sintégra company, in the ancient port of ANtibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    Preserved over a length of more than 15 m, the boat was found lying on its flank in a shallow location, less than 1.60 m under the ancient sea level.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • The Roman wrecked ship completely uncovered, in the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence). This was a trade sailing ship of average size (length: between 20 and 22 m, width between 6 and 7 m, height of the hold: 3 m). It dates from the days of the empire. No trace of a cargo was detected: the ship could have been abandoned or was deliberately sunk to be used as the foundation of a pier.
    The Roman wrecked ship completely uncovered, in the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence). This was a trade sailing ship of average size (length: between 20 and 22 m, width between 6 and 7 m, height of the hold: 3 m). It dates from the days of the empire. No trace of a cargo was detected: the ship could have been abandoned or was deliberately sunk to be used as the foundation of a pier.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • Cleaning the Roman wrecked ship uncovered in 2012 in  the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence).The wood used in the ship's construction is of average quality: the hull is in places reinforced by small plates of lead fastened by small nails.
    Cleaning the Roman wrecked ship uncovered in 2012 in  the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence).
    The wood used in the ship's construction is of average quality: the hull is in places reinforced by small plates of lead fastened by small nails.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • Night lighting for photogammetry, Roman shipwreck excavated in the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    Night lighting for photogammetry, Roman shipwreck excavated in the ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap
  • Night time watering of the ship, ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.Archaeological waterlogged wooden beams must be sprinkled regularly with water to be preserved. They are then to be treated at the laboratory, where water will be gradually replaced by consolidating resin.
    Night time watering of the ship, ancient port of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence), 2012.
    Archaeological waterlogged wooden beams must be sprinkled regularly with water to be preserved. They are then to be treated at the laboratory, where water will be gradually replaced by consolidating resin.
    © Rémi Bénali, Inrap