A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
(Courtesy INA/Mark Polzer)
Dubbed the "princes of the sea" in the Book of Ezekiel, the Phoenicians sailed from their ports in modern-day Lebanon all the way to the Iberian Peninsula in search of precious commodities. Trading a costly violet-blue dye, Tyrian purple, and exquisite glasswares, these master navigators and merchants filled their holds with silver and other valuables from about 1200 to 300 B.C. But archaeologists have uncovered little evidence of these ships apart from depictions on reliefs, or much direct proof of the vast extent of their trade networks.
Now, a discovery off the coastal city of Cartagena in southeast Spain by archaeologists Mark Polzer and Juan Pinedo of Texas A&M University promises to fill many gaps in our knowledge. At a depth of 60 feet, the two have found artifacts from a sixth-century B.C. Phoenician shipwreck, including goods as diverse as amber from the Baltic Sea coast and elephant tusks from the Atlantic coast of Morocco. "They went beyond the Straits of Gibraltar and connected to trade in the Atlantic," says Polzer. "This is the first site to produce direct evidence of this."
On a more human level, the artifacts also promise to tell us much about the diets and lives of Phoenician sailors. During initial excavations, the team recovered remains of acorns, hazelnuts, and olives that crew members would have eaten, as well as a small stone cube that likely served as a gaming piece. "It looks like a little die," says Polzer. "I always like these types of finds because they connect you to an individual."
More Underwater Discoveries