Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Underwater archaeologists from the Soprintendenza del Mare Regione Siciliana, RPM Nautical Foundation and the Society for the Documentation of Submerged Sites (SDSS), have recovered two more bronze warship rams. They were found at the site of the Battle of the Egadi Islands, a pivotal naval engagement during the First Punic War, which led to the victory of Rome over Carthage.

The Battle of the Egadi Islands was fought in March 241 BC, off the western coast of Sicily. Ancient writers recounted the size and scale of the battle which saw hundreds of ships ramming each other as the Carthaginian forces sought to break through the Roman line in order to reach and resupply the Carthaginian army on mainland Sicily.

The Romans enjoyed far greater mobility since their vessels were carrying only the bare necessities, while the Carthaginians were burdened with the equipment necessary for sustained travel. Following the Roman victory, Carthage signed the Treaty of Lutatius in which Carthage surrendered Sicily to Rome and paid substantial reparations.

One of the bronze battering rams recovered from the second century BC Battle of the Egadi Islands.

Ongoing underwater surveys of the battle site have been conducted using an autonomous underwater vehicle to map the seafloor and a remotely operated vehicle to inspect submerged targets. The survey area originally spanned over 100 square miles; however, based on the findings, the main focus then concentrated on an area of less than five square miles.

Researchers sought to delineate the site to the north and east when they discovered two bronze warship rams. Since the beginning of the operation, a total of 25 battering rams have been discovered, along with dozens of lead slinger bullets which were used as lethal projectiles in combat, several bronze helmets and cheek-pieces, as well as Roman coins.

The same area also identified an extremely large merchant shipwreck dating from the fourth century AD, which had been transporting amphorae containing wine.

Valeria Li Vigni, Director of the Soprintendenza del Mare, the government agency that oversees underwater cultural heritage in Sicily, said, “Together with the results of previous years, the discoveries made this summer further reveal the picture of this ancient naval battle, which to date is by far the best documented from an archaeological point of view.”

A Carthaginian helmet recovered from the ancient naval battle.

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