Wednesday 30 May 2012

That Sinking Feeling...

Recently discovered shipwrecks on the Mediterranean Sea floor (Credit).
The almost pristine fragments of amphorae and other bits and pieces illustrated above are being reported today in the New York Daily News (dot com) as the deepest yet found in the Mediterranean, between 1200 and 1400 metres down. As an example of what I was talking about yesterday, I'm struck by the shock and amazement brought out in the Associated Press article.
     Those making the discovery were, evidently, astonished that they've been wrong all along in assuming that the vessels involved were too small to chance the open ocean, and instead clung to the coast in their passages around that vast inland sea. One wonders what made the ancients (actually quite recent--3rd century C.E. Roman) deviate from the norms imposed on them by modern-day armchair argonauts! A perspicacious old friend of the Subversive Archaeologist, Mickey Dietler would know what I'm talking about [his work on the commercial booze trade in the Iron Age of Europe is wonderfully nuanced and insightful]. 
     WTF? Did these classical archaeologists think that commercial activities 2,700 years ago were bucolic? That there'd never be a temptation to push the limits of the vessel in getting to a market ahead of a competitor, or to trim the sail a little tighter to cut down on overhead? I think these discoveries at depth say more about the way some archaeologists think than anything we might have gleaned about past behaviour from these antique failures.
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