BMCR 2008.12.19

Archaeologia Maritima Mediterranea. An International Journal on Underwater Archaeology. Volume 5

, Archaeologia Maritima Mediterranea. An International Journal on Underwater Archaeology. Volume 5. Pisa and Rome: Fabrizio Serra Editore, 2008. 214. Subscription: Italy: €145.00 (individuals); €395.00 (institutions with online edition); Abroad: €195.00 (individuals).

This useful and well-produced journal has now reached its fifth anniversary, still under the direction of founding editor Roberto Petriaggi of the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro in Rome. The Comitato scientifico has remained the same as well; a group of 13 scholars from various Mediterranean countries, Portugal, and England. The journal has appeared in a timely manner, usually in the first half of the calendar year attributed to the volume. In his introductory comments (1, 2004: 9-10) the editor introduced a journal aimed at scholars interested in topics concerning archaeology under water in the Mediterranean region, including the conservation and presentation of cultural remains from underwater archaeological sites. How well has the journal served this audience, and how has it evolved over the past five years? In her review of the first volume in this journal (BMCR 2005.09.64), Jean MacIntosh Turfa praised its production, scope, and contents and made this prediction: “If subsequent volumes appear in a timely fashion, this journal will be essential reading for students of Mediterranean history, economic history, conservation, etc.” Has the initial promise been fulfilled?

The single, annual issues have varied in length from 184 (3, 2006) to 222 (2, 2005) pages, including numerous black and white photographs and line drawings. Although printed on a heavy white bond rather than glossy paper, the photographic images are very clear. Each issue includes an editorial introduction, eight to ten articles, a small number of book reviews (varying from none at all to three), and a catchall section that started off as Acta Diurna, Comunicazioni e agiornamenti scientifici and by volume 4 (2007) was whittled down to Acta Diurna. This section contains notices of conference presentations, sometimes with detailed accounts of the papers and interventi, discussions of new museum displays, notices of new journals, proposals for scholarly initiatives, comments on publications, and obituaries. Obviously the articles form the core of the journal and will constitute the most important focus for the readers.

Of the 44 articles published in the first five issues, 32 have been written in Italian, ten in English, and two in French. Most of the authors are seasoned scholars, but several articles were written by Italian graduate students. Approximately 28 of these articles are field reports, 16 are synthetic studies of various topics involving ancient Mediterranean seafaring or the conservation of artefacts. The field reports usually concern shipwrecks or harbours in Italian territorial waters, but there are also reports of work off Croatia and Israel. There is some overlap, of course, but approximately 19 articles principally concern ships or shipwrecks, two concern navigation, five concern harbours, seven concern conservation, and 13 involve a variety of topics. Only one of the articles is focussed on the Bronze Age, and three on the post-classical period. Each article is followed by an English abstract, apparently furnished by the author. Unfortunately, some of the abstracts are barely comprehensible, and the editor should intervene where necessary. He should also ensure uniformity in the methods of citation within articles, and in the bibliographies that follow. In some articles the citations appear in the text in social sciences format, with occasional use of footnotes, while in others the citations all occur as footnotes. The footnote numbers start a new series on each page, an inconvenient and curiously old-fashioned detail. Some authors put all of their bibliography at the end of the articles, while others maintain the irritating habit of placing all references within the footnotes, with frequent cross-references and no summary bibliography. In some articles each item in the bibliography is prefaced by an abbreviation used in the text, which seems unnecessarily complicated, while in others it is not. I found only a few typographical errors. Seven of the nine books reviewed in the first five issues were published in Italy, one in France, and one possibly in Malta, although the place of publication is not indicated. In each issue, anywhere between two and six of the items in the Table of Contents has been authored by a member of the Comitato scientifico. As the journal matures, it is to be hoped that the circle of contributors will expand sufficiently to avoid such a large proportion of in-house authors.

In the fifth issue the editor Petriaggi thanks the contributors and expresses justifiable pride that the journal has fulfilled its promise to be of service to the whole scholarly community in gathering and disseminating information (p. 9). He follows with a lament, common among Italian archaeologists concerned with submerged cultural remains, about the difficulty of protecting and studying the cultural heritage in Italian coastal waters. Petriaggi also brings up the related problem of the lack of permanent teaching staff in Italian universities qualified to instruct the next generation of underwater archaeologists and conservators, the absence of jobs for young scholars, and the reliance of Italian universities on poorly paid temporary teaching staff. To varying degrees, universities throughout Europe and North America share the same problems.

This is not the place to review the articles in all of the last four issues, but a quick survey of the articles in volume five will provide an idea of the scope and character of the journal.

Piero dell’Amico (pp. 13-22) revisits the eighteenth-century reports of a wooden boat (2.5 x 14 m) found in 1777 at Mariana in Corsica during the excavation of a canal. The hull was apparently well preserved, but it was soon lost to decay. The author makes use of contemporary drawings and descriptions to reconstruct its character. The carvel planking was joined with pegged mortise and tenon joints and lay against one-piece semicircular frames. Dell’Amico discusses the special characteristics of the design, cites parallels among wrecks found more recently, and concludes that the boat belonged to the epoca archaica.

Valentina Purpura (pp. 23-44) reviews the data in Parker’s Ancient Shipwrecks of the Mediterranean and the Roman Provinces (Oxford 1992) concerning nine wrecks of marble-carrying ships ( naves lapidariae) around the coastline of Sicily. The chronology of the wrecks, all imperial in date except for the sixth-century Marzamemi II Wreck, confirms the concentration of this type of shipment in the first three centuries of the empire. Purpura describes the location and characteristics of each ship, along with the origin and possible destination of the cargo. She concludes that the pattern of shipping routes once again highlights the role of the waters east and west of Sicily as crossroads of the ancient Mediterranean.

Eric Rieth (pp. 45-68) provides a stimulating discussion of a possible new approach to the analysis and classification of frame-first construction of hulls between the fifth and twelfth centuries A.D. Instead of approaching a ship from the point of view of the principles and methods of shipbuilding, he proposes examination of the geometrical form of the cross-section of the hull. He isolates a group of boxy hulls, with a sharp turn to of the bilge, associated with frame-first construction. The author feels that this approach will help free various research questions from exclusive focus on the Greco-Roman tradition of marine shipbuilding and perhaps lead to new results. A short article by Lucien Basch (pp. 69-81) follows up on Rieth’s classification of the Dor Wreck of 500 A.D. as a riverboat rather than a proper sea-going craft. He sees parallels in Egypt for the flat bottom and sharp angled turn of the bilge, particularly in the Nile riverboats and the harbour craft of Alexandria.

Ehud Galili, Zaraza Friedman, and Baruch Rosen (pp. 83-90) present a second-century terra sigillata plate and a Roman period grey slipped bowl from a wreck in the harbour of Akko destroyed by dredging in 1992-93. The bowl carries four (originally probably five) graffiti on its exterior, all showing the same kind of Roman iron anchor. The base of the plate carries three graffiti depicting a boat with projecting cutwater, high stern, and high bow, the monogram ΠΡ, and what might be a tree. The authors suggest that these graffiti represent a ship moored with an anchor off the bow and a stern line to a tree on the shore, that the site cannot be on the Israeli coast, that the monogram consequently may refer to Patara or Paphos, and that all of this may possibly refer to St. Paul’s stopover in Patara recounted in Acts 21:1-2. While careful examination of personal property recovered from ancient shipwrecks can yield important data, these conclusions seem very far-fetched.

Umberto Crupi (pp.91-137) provides a detailed summation of documentary, geological, photographic, and archaeological evidence for the design of the ancient harbour of Otranto. The author makes use of archival documents, historical cartography from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, and aerial photographs from the last century. After identifying possible remains of an ancient concrete mole just seaward of the main modern mole, the site was examined by survey divers. The remains resemble those of Roman concrete moles elsewhere, and it seems likely that the Roman and Medieval moles were built more or less at the same location as the modern one.

Eduardo Scognamiglio (pp. 139-50) presents the results of a recent survey of a concrete breakwater or mole associated with a large first to third-century Roman villa located in Sapri, near Salerno. The structure (L 60 m, W 8 m) is composed of large, regular blocks of concrete, laid on projections of the limestone bedrock. The marks of the lost wooden formwork can be seen in the concrete, which is said to consist of pozzolanic mortar and tuff aggregate more or less below modern sea level, and lime and silica sand mortar above it, as at the ancient harbour of Cosa. The author observed traces of a large arched opening between two of the masses (perhaps to allow currents to carry away silt), a mooring ring, and a sloped surface interpreted as a boarding ramp.

The character of the Acta Diurna varies significantly from volume to volume of the journal. The longest contribution in this volume is a memoir by Alessandro Olschki, a well-known publisher and journalist, of the early years of archaeology underwater in Italy: Rimembranze archeologiche sottomarine (pp. 153-78). In it, he recounts his work surveying harbours and shipwrecks along the Italian coastline in the 1950s and 1960s, at sites such as the Golfo di Baratti, Giannutri, Spargi, and Giglio. Some of the personalities include Nino Lamboglia, Gianni Roghi, and Maurizio Sarra. The author recounts early problems with equipment, techniques, funding, and legislation and comments on the difficulties that continue to plague archaeology underwater in Italy today. In combination with the four articles by and about Nino Lamboglia in volume 4 (2007), this memoir constitutes a valuable contribution to the early history of the discipline in Italy.

Three final notes in this section concern the theoretical and legal framework for instituting new underwater archaeological parks in Italy, a somewhat far-fetched technical solution to the problem of the looting of isolated wreck sites, involving remote monitoring, and some conservation issues involving submerged cultural remains. The book review section contains three short reviews: a volume of Atti of a conference concerning the lateen sail, an Italian edition of a letter by Synesius recounting a sea voyage, and a French book about pinisi, a traditional Indonesian boat design. The journal concludes with a list of the postal and e-mail addresses of the authors who contributed to it, and editorial instructions from the publisher.

The editor has accomplished a great deal in the first five years of Archaeologia Maritima Mediterranea. He has published a significant number of articles concerning a wide variety of topics relevant to maritime culture and underwater archaeology. The Acta Diurna section serves as a useful forum for less formal presentations, and for the discussion of pressing issues. Now that Venetian journal Archeologia delle acque: semstrale di antropologia, archeologia, enografia, storia dell’acque (ABACO, Forli) seems to have vanished (after issue 5, 2001?), the only Italian competitor to the journal is L’Archeologio subacqueo (3 issues a year, Edipuglia, Bari), and this is a newsletter rather than a journal. The selection of books for review, in contrast, seems more quixotic. Given the small number of pages devoted to reviews, it might make more sense to attempt a summary list of recent Italian publications relevant to the journal’s focus, with single-paragraph abstracts. A list of the published acts of scholarly congresses that have taken place in Italy, along with the catalogues of museum exhibitions, and archaeological reports published by local archaeological associations and museums would be particularly useful, since these bibliographical ephemera often escape the notice of foreign scholars and librarians, despite the important information they often contain.

As noted above, the journal is beautifully produced on stiff paper, with sewn signatures, a heavy dust jacket over the attractive cardboard covers, nice type and layout, and numerous line drawings and crisp black and white photographs. Unfortunately, the price is astronomical: €145 for an individual subscription in Italy, €195 for an individual abroad, and €395 for an institutional subscription with “online edition”. For merely an extra €395, institutions can order a hardbound copy. These prices are not justifiable for a journal of more or less 200 relatively small pages (ca. 17 x 24 cm), and the individual subscription rate, particularly for foreigners, will guarantee continued low sales and thus continued prohibitive rates. The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, for example, provides around 450 large pages annually with numerous glossy photos, some in colour, for £67 (ca. €86) per year for individuals in Europe, US$103 (ca. €77) for individuals in North America. These prices are reduced further for members of the Nautical Archaeology Society or the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, membership in which is open to the public. Italian scholars and archaeologists concerned with maritime archaeology and history deserve an Italian language journal with an international circulation, but a complete rethinking is needed if the Archaeologia Maritima Mediterranea is to fill that void. Given the price per page, it is irritating to find between 14 and 20 pages in each issue given over to blank space, very lengthy instructions on copy preparation by the publisher (better put on a website), and even 10-12 pages of advertisements for other breathtakingly expensive journals and books published by Fabrizio Serra.