Planier 3: A Roman Imperial Shipwreck of the First Century CE
SummaryThe Roman shipwreck Planier C (or 3) was found 250 meters south-east of the island of Planier in the early 1960s and the first published reports are Benoit's, from 1962. It is a small merchant vessel put together by mortises and tenons, with a crew of probably five men. This ship has been dated to the middle or third quarter of the first century CE, although Cicéron dates the ship, by the terra sigillata pottery, to just before 47 CE.
The wreck spilled over a reef or ring of rocks and spilled its main cargo, 75+ amphorae mostly of Lambroglia 2 and Dressel IB type, across an area of 10 x 15 meters. The amhporae in part were stamped with the mark of a perfumer from Herculaneum and possibly sailed out of the port of Puteoli (Puzzeoli). Other cargo were personal effects, such as a black-glazed lamp and part of a bronze candelabrum moulded in the shape of a panther. There were five plates and five drinking vessels, as well as a terra sigillata-ware serving platter, also probably in use by the men on board. Pollen and animal bones, evidence of the crew's eating habits, were also found on board. Besides the perfume, the other valuable cargo on board was a cache of colourants; litharge, realgar, and blue frit. Found also was a set of serpentine weights. My conclusion is that this was a small merchant vessel which had connections with trade in Egypt and Gaul, due to what we know about the uses of the minerals and their source, as well as information about the ports.
Outline of the finds on the Planier C wreck
Facts on the Shipwreck:
- First published 1962, principal authors are Benoit and Tchernia.
- 250 meters south-east of the island of Planier. (Often referred to as a Marsailles wreck.)
- 14 meters long and 4 meters wide. (As per drawing in Gallia 31.)
- Dated to third quarter of the first century CE (Cicéron dates the wreck to just before 47 CE.)
- Fell over, or otherwise broke over, a reef and some stones and scattered most cargo.
- Assembled with mortise and tenons, although some beams have holes running through them.
Major cargo were amphorae
- Main kinds were a bunch of Lambroglia types (1-5/7, 10, 13, mostly 2) and Morel 71.
- One kind, inferred to be a large group of the vases, was labeled with the name of M. Tuccius Galeo. It is because of these Cicéron fixes the date.
- Some amphorae, a Dressel IB kind, were labeled with the names of two perfumers probably located in Herculaneum.
- Terra Sigillata dishes (called Arezzo in text), probably in use by the crew. Can be used in part to help date the site. Specifically: 5 plates, 5 drinking vessels, and a serving plate.
- Set of weights made of serpentine.(?)
- Bronze handle to a candelabra(?) with a panther's head.
- Black-glazed lamp
- Pollens and animal bones found, probably as remains of food-stuffs.
- Minerals: Realgar, litharge, and blue frit.
- Major cargo were amphorae
The Question of the Mineral Finds
What are the minerals?
Realgar, Pliny's 'sandaraca', chemically AsS
- Realgar gets its name from the Arabic words for "powder of the mine" (rahj al ghar).
- Sources: Isle of Topazus in the Red Sea, mines in Asia Minor near Pimolisa
- Found in natural lumps and crusts; found here as 15 pebble-lumps within one meter square. (Size not given.) Often found with orpiment, another arsenic-sulphur compound.
- Used as a painting pigment for reds, but fades to orange or yellow.
- Known by the Egyptians (at least by Amarna period) and the Greeks/Romans.
- Nasty; Pliny wrote that the fumes caused illness and death.
Litharge, also 'red lead'.
- Often confused with realgar; Latin, Greek words often found in the context to mean either. Also confused with cinnabar, which has mercury in it.
- Not known by the Egyptians, but introduced early by the Romans.
- 'Manufactured' by smelting white (pure) lead with other materials; Pliny says this manufactured sort is superior to the naturally found.
- Found in 'manufactured' state in Planier C, in small thick rods of material.
- Note: not entirely sure from article which sense is meant.
A blue powdery substance; an early step in
- Vitruvius gives info: sand (quartz), copper filings, and natron.
- Calcium carbonate from chalk or shells needed as well; a common recipe would call for quartz sand or pebbles, natron or ashes from alakoid plants, ground malachite, and chalk.
- 'Caeruleum' in Latin and Greek
- Pliny says the best comes from Egypt
- Banker/entrepreneur Vestorius has a factory in Puteoli (Italy) for frit
Use of these minerals
- Litharge and frit are documented as use in enamel
- Enamel was seen as gaudy by the Romans and exported to Gaul.
- An enamel factory was found in southern Gaul with traces of minerals and metal.
- All three were used as pigments, litharge and realgar being used through medaeval times.
- Frit needed a fixative and was mixed with yellows to make green, at least in Egypt. (Green pigments were much harder to come by.)
- Frit can be used as a glaze, as a step before faience or glass-making, or dampened, shaped freely like sand, and fired to make a solid glass-like substance.
- Realgar, Pliny's 'sandaraca', chemically AsS
My Theory and Commentary
- Vestorius had a factory/enterprise in Puteoli (Puzzuoli, 7 miles or so west of Naples) a century or so before the time of the wreck.
- Ruins have found Terra Sigillata at Puteoli.
- Puteoli was the trade port for the Egyptian grain ships to Italy until the 2nd century CE, when Ostia took over.
- Puteoli was still a center for trade with Egypt. The merchants on the ship were from there. Both the frit and the serpentine for the weights may have come from Egypt with these merchants. The perfumery in Herculaneum shipped through these merchants through Puteoli. The ship may have been headed toward Gaul or may have been the type of ship which made many small stops along the way.
- Images: Map of Pozzuoli, Herculaneum. Map of Planier C area vs. Pozzuoli. Two main kinds of Amphorae from the wreck.
- What are the minerals?
Bibliography and NotesBenoit, Fernand. (1962) "Nouvelles épaves de Provence: III" Gallia 20, 147-76.
Liou, Bernard and Pomey, Patrice. (1985) "Informations archéologiques. Direction de recherches archéologiques sous-marines." Gallia 43, 547-76.
Liou, Bernard. (1973) "Informations archéologiques. Recherches archéologiques sous-marines." Gallia 31, 571-608.
Lucas, A. and S. Harris. (1962) Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries. London: 205-18, 340-46
McCann, Anna Marguerite, Joanne Bourgeois, and Elizabeth Lyding Will. (1977) "Underwater Excavations at the Etruscan Port of Populonia." Journal of Field Archaeology 4, 275-96.
Oswald, Felix. (1966) An Introduction to the Study of Terra Sigillata. [Farnborough, Hants] : Gregg Press. Maps.
Peltenburg, E.J. (1987) "Early Faience Studies, Origins and Relations with Glass." in Early Vitreous Material, ed. Bimson, M. and Freestone, I.C. London : British Museum. 5-29
Strong, Donald and David Brown. (1976) Roman Crafts. New York: New York University Press. Chapters 'Glass' and 'Enamel'.
Tchernia, André. (1969) "Informations archéologiques. Direction de recherches archéologiques sous-marines." Gallia 27, 465-99.
Tite, M.S., M. Bimson and M.R. Cowell. (1984) "Technological Examination of Egyptian Blue." in Archeological Chemistry 3, ed. Lambert, Joseph. Washington, D.C.: American Chemical Society. 215-42
Vitruvius, trans. Rowland and Howe. (1999) Ten Books on Architecture. Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press. 92-5, 268
Baldassari, Roberta. (1999 or 2000?) "Le anfore romane e puniche dei rinvenimenti sottomarini." Found at "Le Tesi di Laurea" at http://archeoclub.pantelleria.it/letesi.html. Last accessed 16 Jan 2004 (almost three years after the original citing!)
Some thanks to L. Licata for partial translations of sections of the French Gallia articles.