Figure Seven
The latest of the Roman shipwrecks from Skerki Bank was first surveyed in 1989 and named by this author the "Isis", for the benefit of the children linked by satellite and live television to this first Jason Project.23 (Figs. 2, 7) As Isis was a known name for a Roman ship and as the Egyptian goddess, wife of Osiris, who particularly protected sailors as well as promised afterlife, the name seemed appropriate. The "Isis" is the first ancient shipwreck found and surveyed by the new robotic technology. The site of the "Isis" is about ten meters square, covering a depth of between 740 m and 800 m. 16 pottery artifacts were lifted from the wreck site.24 10 of these are amphoras with 5 pieces of commonware and a precious Roman lamp. (Fig. 8) One of the great advantages of deep sea archaeology is that many of the artifacts are unbroken at these depths and pottery types only known previously in fragments are found complete as the fine small flat-bottomed table amphora from Tunisia with the tall grooved neck.25

Also recovered was a hand-formed cooking pot from the nearby island of Pantelleria. It was filled with pine tar for use by the sailors on deck.
26 This is the first example found of this essential ancient naval store in use for the daily maintenance of a ship and its rigging. To our surprise and good luck, when this resinous mass was x-rayed, a Roman copper coin was found embedded in the tar, dropped by an unlucky sailor. It is identified with Constantius II (337-361), giving a terminus post quem date for the sinking of the ship. On the obverse is the bust of Constantius II and on the reverse the emperor with knee raised is spearing a fallen horseman. The inscription reads, FEL TEMP REPARATIO, a popular type with the promise of the emperor for renewed happy times. How long ancient coins stayed in use is a subject for debate, but those least in value, such as this "centenionalis", would probably not linger for long.27

Figure Eight
A North African Red Slip Ware lamp (Hayes type IA) is a further important find for the dating of the "Isis" wreck. A Tunisian type, probably from Carthage, it may also be dated in the last quarter of the fourth century. 28 The amphoras, studied by Joann Freed, may also be dated to the last quarter of the fourth century. They include six late Roman, large cylindrical oil or fish sauce amphoras from Tunisia 29, two small Calabrian wine amphoras 30, and two wine amphoras from the western Asia Minor 31.

Other finds include a rare, small amphoretta from Mauritania 32 and a basalt millstone from Libya 33 of a previously unknown form. Pieces of cedar deck planking 34 and a beam of white oak 35 were recovered with mortise- and- tenon joinery. The joints were widely spaced as is normal for late Roman ships. That the "Isis" may have been an older ship when she went down is suggested by the use of some lead patching and reused timber. It also should be remembered that North Africa was the source for the wild animals so in demand for entertainment in the great colosseum in Rome and any ship coming from Carthage may well have included them in her cargo as well as textiles, sacks of grain and other biodegradable cargo.

The best evidence for the original size of the "Isis" are the stack of iron anchors found on her forward deck. Sections of four shanks, rectangular in section, of a late-Roman type were recovered in 1989 36 and a pointed iron fluke in 1997.37 They had removable iron stocks with flat arms angled sideways with the estimated length of a shank 1.7 m. This sized anchor maybe compared to smaller merchant ships with a length of about 12 to 15 meters.

The "Isis" was a well-built, study trader typical of the late-Roman world designed to brave the open seas between Carthage and Rome. The "Isis" was an older ship whose last port of call was surely Carthage but whose cargo suggests that she had also sailed in the eastern Mediterranean in the recent past and had called at ports in Italy as well. Where the "Isis" was heading on her fateful voyage is unknown, but due to the location, it is reasonable to suppose that she was heading towards Rome. Her captain may well have also been the owner as was typical of the smaller merchantmen that tended to replace the larger, state-financed merchant fleets that had served the earlier empire. The center of the Mediterranean had shifted now to Constantinople. The risks were great and shipwrecks were frequent. Smaller ships had less to lose.

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23. McCann and Freed 1994, pp.2-58; Ballard, Archbold, McCann 1990.

24. McCann and Freed 1994, color fig. 10.

25. McCann and Freed 1994, MJ98-8, p. 39, fig.32,color fig.13.

26. McCann and Freed 1994, MJ89-14, pp. 43-44, figs. 36a, 36b, and 37. For analysis of the pine tar see, ibid., pp. 109-121 by C. W. Beck, D. R. Stewart and E. C. Stout.

27. McCann and Freed 1994, MJ89-43, p. 17, 18 and figs. 18a and 18b.

28. McCann and Freed 1994, MJ89-36, p. 45, fig. 38a and 38b. I am grateful to D.M. Bailey for suggesting this dating range to me, although the type may occur earlier and last later.

29. See McCann and Freed 1994, pp. 22-32. These large amphoras vary in height from 103 m to 104 m and could hold up to 20 gallons of liquid, the limit that a stevedore could carry. While the type is usually associated with olive oil, Freed argues that the four with pitched interiors must have contained fish products since pitch is not associated with oil jars.

30. McCann and Freed 1994, pp.35-37, MJ89-7, MJ89-10.

31. McCann and Freed 1994, pp. 33-34, MJ89-11, MJ89-19.

32. McCann and Freed 1994,MJ89-16, p.41, fig.34,color fig. 15.

33. McCann and Freed 1994, MJ89-40, p. 19, figs.20-22.

34. McCann and Freed 1994, MJ89-37, p. 11, fig. 9.

35. McCann and Freed 1994, MJ89-39, fig.10. color fig. 9.

36. McCann and Freed 1994, MJ89-13, MJ89-21, MJ89-38, figs. 12-15.

37. SK97.030, publication forthcoming.