Off Sicily, a waterlogged ship which has been under water for 2,000 years is being painstakingly brought to the surface and reassembled in the town of Marsala.
Off Sicily, a waterlogged ship which has been under water for 2,000 years is being painstakingly brought to the surface and reassembled in the town of Marsala. The Punic warship was found and identified 10 years ago by British archaeologist Miss Honor Frost. It is rowing galley which was sunk in battle by a superior Roman fleet. The find is a significant contribution to knowledge of the Phoenicians.
SYNOPSIS: Near this headland on Favignana Island in 250 BC, a battle between Phoenician galleys and a superior force of Roman ships left the sea-bed littered with hulks. Remnants of the hull timbers of one of them have survived for 20 centuries, and are a source of fragments of great interest to archaeologists.
Each piece of the ship was measured and drawn underwater before the wreck was dismantled. Then the timber had to be prevented from drying to dust by a year's soaking in a special wax which replace the water in the wood cells. The fragile piece range from small twigs to large structural members, and much planking from one side of the ship that over the centuries was protected from destructive worms by a sandbank. The sternpost which had broken in two was pinned together ready for reassembly with the other remains.
Each piece is matched to the drawings done underwater before the reconstruction began in a derelict wine factory in Marsala, the ancient port in sight of the original battle. With the old wine vats removed, and a new floor, the factory is large enough to accommodate the 100-feet-(30 metres)-long ship. Concrete blocks are placed to support a girder on which the keel is to be mounted. With the roof not yet watertight, a large plastic tent is needed.
The original Punic ship was powered by 40 oars, each handled by two men. the British team was assisted by French experts to work out the original shape of the vessel, from the pieces available. Working to the plan, the specialists welded a frame from which to suspend the timbers. The full reconstruction will be long and tedious process, fitting together hundreds of treated pieces to build up a further insight into the Phoenician civilisation.