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Second campaign of excavations completed on Roman wreck carrying tin ingots off the coast of Brittany

"A rare and exceptional site", is how Olivia Hulot, in charge of mission at DRASSM (Department of Underwater and Submarine Archaeological Research), described the Roman wreck of the 3rd century, found 20 m deep, east of Batz Island located off the coast of Brittany in north-western France, where a second campaign of excavations has just ended.

Second campaign of excavations completed on Roman wreck carrying tin ingots off the coast of Brittany
Archaeologists record the tin ingots before they are brought to the surface during 
the first excavation campaign in 2015 [Credit: DRASSM]
The wreck, reported in 2014, became more interesting when analyses revealed that the cargo was not made up of lead but of tin ingots, a precious metal highly sought-after for its bronze production. This is the second wreck of this period found on the Atlantic Arc. The first, located in 1983 in the Sept-Îles archipelago, contained 27 tons of lead.

Initial excavations in 2015 allowed DRASSM to extract the exceptional quantity of 6.5 tons of pure tin or tin alloy ingots of different weights and shapes, some of which were stamped. The second and last campaign was aimed at uncovering objects of life on board, although the hull has disappeared over the centuries.

A team of nine people from DRASSM, based in Marseille, was supported by three crewmembers from the Roscoff Biological Station. Six or seven divers were mobilized together for 50 hours of diving during the seven days of excavation. Remains of Roman scales, plaques and counterweights, ceramic and tin-plated tableware, as well as glass-ware and food-related elements such as pig bones, were brought to the surface.

This wreck is a unique testimony to the tin trade during the first decades of our era," says Olivia Hulot. "Once the studies are finalised, they will contribute to a better understanding of the origin of metals, the production, transport and marketing of raw materials by sea along the shores of the Atlantic Arc."

Source: Le Telegramme [October 08, 2017]

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