Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Rare Etruscan Wreck Volume 53 Number 3, May/June 2000
by Frédéric Lontcho

[image] Amphora from an Etruscan wreck found off southern France (Courtesy Frédérick Lontcho) [LARGER IMAGE]

An expedition using a submarine to search for the wreckage of an airplane piloted by Antoine Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, has led to the discovery of a sixth-fifth century B.C. Etruscan wreck off the coast of southern France. An expedition led by the French Ministry of Culture's Department of Subaquatic and Submarine Archaeological Research (DRASSM) in conjunction with La Comex, a petroleum exploration company, spotted the wreck in waters 243 feet deep off the coast of the Hyères Islands near Toulon. Only three Etruscan wrecks have ever been recovered, all plundered and poorly preserved, so the cargo and the ship's design are of equal interest to scholars. Meanwhile, the DRASSM expedition also found six other Roman ships dating to the first and second centuries B.C. in waters 357 feet deep off the coast of Marseilles. These vessels were transporting amphoras from diverse Mediterranean ports; one is known to have been carrying tiles. DRASSM will soon undertake study of the remains in situ.

A Marseilles fisherman created a sensation in France a year ago when he hauled up a silver bracelet inscribed with the names of Saint-Exupéry, his wife Consuelo, as well as the address of Reynal and Hitchcock, his American publisher. The bracelet was evidently a gift from the publisher to Saint-Exupéry during a trip to New York. It is the only proof recovered so far that the French aviator plunged into the Mediterranean while piloting a reconnaissance mission off the southern French coast in 1944. Saint Exupéry's airplane still remains at large.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America