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Ancient Naval Battle

Artefacts retrieved from site of first ever ancient naval battle to be discovered

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Underwater archaeologists have recovered a treasure trove of artefacts off the coast of Sicily from the site of the first ancient naval battle ever discovered , including battering rams, helmets, armour and weapons dating back 2,000 years.

They are the remnants of the Battle of the Egadi Islands - the last clash from the first Punic War which took place in 241 BC – in which the Romans fought the Carthagnians in a battle that culminated from more than 20 years of warring as the Romans struggled to gain a foothold in the Mediterranean sea.  While the Carthagnians were much more powerful on the water, the Romans lay in wait trapping the Carthaginians and blocking off their sea route in a sudden attack. Up to 50 Carthagnian ships were sunk, killing up to 10,000 men.  The Roman victory set them on the road for Europe-wide domination.

The priceless horde of artefacts had lain undisturbed on the seabed at a depth of 100 metres for more than two millennia. Now British archaeologists have begun the process of retrieving all the remnants which had been scattered over some five kilometres. They are using cutting edge technology aboard a ship to survey the entire nautical battlefield in detail with the expectation that many more relics will be uncovered.

“There has never been an ancient whole battle site discovered before, which is quite surprising when you consider how important sea power is in the Mediterranean,” said Jon Henderson, an underwater archaeologist at the University of Nottingham.  “The historical significance is huge, but what is so important is that we are finding battle sites because of changes in underwater technology. We are at the cusp of an exciting range of new discoveries.”

Experts plan to cast the rams and use them to reconstruct what the ancient ships would look like. “We can now begin to say something about the fittings and equipment present on ancient warships and indeed what would have been taken into battle,” said Mr Henderson.

By John Black

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