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New finds emerge from site of First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast


The 2017 research campaign carried out by the Soprintendenza del Mare in collaboration with the Altofondalisti divers of the GUE (Global Underwater Explorers) off the western coast of Sicily has shed more light on the 'Battle of the Aegadian Islands', which took place on 10 March 241 BC between the fleets of Carthage and the Roman Republic during the First Punic War.

New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
Photos courtesy of the Egadi Project 2017
This year's campaign focused on the north-west seabed of Levanzo Island at a depth between 75 and 95 metres. The new discoveries include two bronze rostrums (Egadi 12 and Egadi 13) in addition to the 11 already recovered in the past, and ten bronze helmets of the Montefortino type which was used by Roman militias.

New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
Photos courtesy of the Egadi Project 2017
One of the bronze helmets was found to have a unique feature: a relief of a lion's skin which seems to embrace the central cone adorning its peak. Only one other helmet of the Montefortino type is known to have a relief of a what appears to be a stylized bird applied in a similar manner on top.

New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
Photos courtesy of the Egadi Project 2017
It is known that the praetorians, a body established more than two centuries later by Augustus, sometimes adorned their helmet with a real lion's skin. However, there are no such examples from the Roman Republican era.

New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
Photos courtesy of the Egadi Project 2017
It seems likely that this decoration is to be traced back to an allied city of Rome where the influence of the myth of Herakles was strong, who, as is well known, is often represented wearing a lion skin on his head. It is also possible that this is an insignia indicating a rank of authority within the Roman army at this time.

New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
Photos courtesy of the Egadi Project 2017
The Egadi 13 rostrum is also of great importance because it has a Punic inscription on the upper sheath. It is the second rostrum with a Punic inscription so far recovered (the other is the Egadi 3 rostrum) and, therefore, it will be of great help in adding to our knowledge about the battle when the inscription is deciphered after restoration.

New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
Photos courtesy of the Egadi Project 2017
The Egadi rostrum 12, is distinct from the others found so far because it has an ornamental pattern on both sides that is of great artistic value. The motif is composed of the handle of a sword that connects to the central blade of the rostrum and bird-head appendages that adorn the initial parts of the two upper and lower blades.

New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
Photos courtesy of the Egadi Project 2017
This decorative element is known only from the Acqualadroni rostrum that the Soprintendenza del Mare recovered a few years ago in the waters of Capo Rasocolmo near Messina and is now on display in Stretto.

New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
Photos courtesy of the Egadi Project 2017
This decoration will allow us to identify the area of origin of the rostrum following an iconographic analysis that will be carried out after the restoration. The Egadi 12 rostrum also has an inscription on the upper sheath, but its nature has not yet been identified.

New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
New finds emerge from the site of the First Punic War naval battle off Sicilian coast
Photos courtesy of the Egadi Project 2017
Commening on the finds Sebastiano Tusa of the Soprintendenza del Mare said: "It is an exceptional result from a scientific perspective because it adds more findings with absolutely new characteristics to those already known and recovered that will certainly add new typological, technical, epigraphic and historical data."


"These latest discoveries add to those made in the past in this stretch of sea between Levanzo and Marettimo and that have allowed us to precisely locate the site where one of the greatest naval battles of antiquity was fought with around 200,000 participants, between the Romans, led by consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus, and the Carthaginians, under the command of Hanno, and which ended in the victory of the first."

"The site has so far yielded thirteen bronze rostrums of ancient warships, eighteen bronze helmets, hundreds of amphorae and objects of everyday use."

Source: GUE Project - Battle of Egadi [October 27, 2017]
TANN

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