Category Archives: Misc. Course Stuff

Blog on Submerged History of the Adriatic

I attended Dr. Hrvoje Potrebica’s lecture on the underwater history of the Adriatic and was a little surprised to find the room packed. It was really nice to see people taking an interest.  I actually found most of it really interesting even though he was a little soft spoken.  I really liked when he was talking about the only location of a Neanderthal site and the mousterian tools associated with it.

Some of the Roman shipwrecks were actually quite interesting to hear about as well. Especially the shipwreck near the island of Muter in the first century B.C. because of the kitchen coarse ware found that could give some information about the crew itself. Which I imagine any type of artifacts that can be used to draw any type of notions about the people associated with them is scarce.  I also really liked some of the things I normally didn’t associate with Roman trading such as the sarcophagi that were complete with lids and the bone gambling dice.  I really wasn’t surprised to find that amphora were found with almost every medieval and Roman shipwreck he talked about. That can also be really great for the archaeologists.  Just like we do today, people who made amphora wanted to make them with low cost maters. Most amphora associated with trading were made from coarse clay, miner and rock inclusions. From a geologic standpoint, this can help relate them to the geology of their places of origin as well as the style in which they’re made and some of them even had stamped seals.

When Dr. Hrvoje Potrebica mentioned that the reconstruction teams were the back bone of the whole process it raised some concerns. Granted reconstructions take place outside of underwater archaeology, but I feel that it doesn’t play such a pivotal role. I understand why they would need to reconstruct artifacts due when they surface and dry out they start to crumble.  This also would subject them to the biases of the reconstruction teams and would in turn bias the archaeologists. I was really uneasy to accept the conclusions that they drew about the bronze statue  found by Rene Wouters because of this. Plus the Department for Underwater Archaeology was founded in the 1960s, so I think it still has some “kinks and bumps” to smooth out in order to be more efficient.

However I really like the idea of underwater museums. It would be a great way to experience some of the finds (even if they are replicas). But this may just stem from me always wanting to experience scuba diving.

Bonus Blog: Underwater Convergence on the Adriatic

Dr. Potrebica’s lecture brought one word to mind: convergence. That region, the Balkans: Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Greece, Albania, and the other surrounding countries are a convergence of culture. You have Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Islam all converging on that one region, creating a cornucopia of culture, knowledge, language, customs, beliefs, etc. The region is also known as a converging point for conflict. With that being said, it’s no surprise (still fascinating) that there are more than four hundred registered underwater sites in that area. It’s a converging point of trade, a gateway between East and West.

Doctor Petrobica’s presentation gave us an astonishing look into the lives of people that span across time and space, as far back as the time of the Neanderthal, as Kashtel Shtalifich is the only underwater Mousterian site. From there, we were shown a chronology of maritime trade. From the 1st-5th century BC, we were shown pictures of Roman shipwrecks, containing oil lamps, fine pottery, combs, phallic pendants, you name it. This material culture opens a window into the lives of people that lived thousands of years ago; it’s the closest we can get to living through them. At the Island of Ilovik, from the mid 2nd century, a Roman shipwreck possessed one of the largest cargo of amphorae in the Eastern Adriatic, which tells us popularity of it, and its efficiency for transport and storage of various goods and products. At other sites at different islands, sarcophagi were found with the lids still on them, along with dice, tableware, and coarse ware. Many of these items are everyday items, going to the average person, much like us.

Medieval shipwrecks have also been discovered and registered. At Sv. Pavao, at the Island of Mljet, dated to the 16th century AD, a shipwreck contained Iznik, which is Turkish pottery, along with silver Turkish coins, and a bell with the year 1567 inscribed on it. Conflict between European powers and the Ottoman Empire was prevalent in this region, but as Doctor Potrebica said, trade was stronger than politics; people loved their goods. Despite constant warfare, trade was the one constant that never stopped.

I was especially in awe of the 20th century shipwrecks, such as the Austro-Hungarian battleship, German torpedo boat, the Barun Gautsch (Titanic of the Adriatic), and the B-24J Liberator (an American heavy bomber). American, German, Austro-Hungarian, whether it was World War I, which the Ottoman Empire was involved in, or World War II, where Germany and its allies (Hungary, Bulgaria,  and others) were dominating the Balkans, you can see this region as a converging point. All the material goods found at these sites tell us stories of regular people living regular lives; they paint us a vivid picture of maritime trade routes going back to the days of the Roman Empire; they tell us stories of conflict in a region that has always been labeled as a hot spot for it. These more than 400 sites can also tell us what the future may hold for that region of the world. Doctor Perebica’s lecture really gives you a sense of just how culturally rich the region is, but also how fragile it is.

Underwater Archaeology and its Stories

I really enjoyed Dr. Potrebica’s presentation on underwater archaeology: Adriatic underwater history and Croatia underwater heritage.  The sheer number of sites exemplified how pivotal sea travel was to trade, something that is not quite as easy to picture today.  He said that of over 400 hundred sites found so far, 200 are shipwrecks (most of these are Roman), and only 2 were not already looted when archaeologists got there.

My favorite aspect of his talk was how the stories – either of how the sites were discovered or how the shipwreck happened – are pieced together.  For instance, the more than 200 discarded clay pipes near a dock were most likely of sailors waiting to come onto land or go back out to sea.  Also, it can sometimes be easy to view an archaeological site as static, especially ones such as mortuary sites that have been purposefully arranged and deposited; however, the examples of artifacts being discovered in a trail leading to the shipwreck really showed how this was a dynamic moment of sailors battling violent weather by throwing valuable cargo overboard in an effort to save their ship and their lives.  Then of course there is the story larger than just the wreck: where, when, why, and what these ships were traveling.  It seems that this would be especially difficult when dealing with artifacts of trade, as Dr. Potrebica explained, these ships were not simply going from their origin to one destination; they would stop at many ports along the way, picking up and unloading various cargo.  Therefore, by the time of the wreck the ship, which could have been at any point along its route, might have evidence pointing to any variety of locations.  This is why I thought it was so important that Dr. Potrebica explained that to discover the original location of the ship and its crew, the archaeologist must look to the kitchen which would have tools that the men used from the beginning of their voyage and point to their original location.  One detail I thought was pretty amazing that they were able to tell in the story of one ship was the brass bell which had the exact date (1567) engraved.

Lastly, I enjoyed how the presentation showed not only history and artifacts found, but also the field of underwater archaeology and current issues it faces.  Dr. Potrebica explained that while divers feel obligated to bring up artifacts as soon as possible to save them from looters, the next step in the process – restoration – is the slowest and artifacts can also be damaged while waiting to be restored.  This presents a dilemma wherein restorers must go as quickly as possible while also doing quality work.  I was wondering if this means there is a high job demand for restorers, something that is not often seen in archaeology.  I thought the solutions of protective cages around the sites and turning them into underwater museums were very clever.  In some ways it is more informative and interesting for the public to be able to see the wrecks in their original form.

Submerged History of the Adriatic-Bonus Assignment

I attended the lecture on Croatian underwater heritage by Dr. Hrvoje Potrebica not knowing anything about underwater archaeology, but hoping to learn something about shipwrecks; luckily, I was not disappointed.  I have had an interest in shipwrecks for a few years (the interest stemming from romanticized, Titanic-esque wrecks), and previously I only knew very little about wrecks off the eastern coast of Africa and around the western coast of India circa the 1400-1500s.  Therefore, I was excited that Dr. Potrebica did not focus on one time period, but allowed us to explore shipwrecks from medieval, Roman, and modern time periods.  I also enjoyed his discussion of artifacts and views for the future of underwater archaeology.

I am a bit nerdy in the sense that ships themselves (their architecture and style) are interesting to me.  I enjoyed seeing the differences in technology throughout the time periods where they morphed from wooden yet relatively complex to modern (circa mid 1900s) metal designs.  I was very shocked at how well the ships from all time periods were preserved underwater.  Even from the Roman period, ships were somewhat intact.  My favorite ship (I do not remember the time period) was the one where the wooden bottom was constructed without the use of nails or any other fastening device-but was instead woven together.  I do not know how advanced that technology was, but it seemed very ingenious, but I wonder if it contributed to the sinking of that ship.

The most salient part of the lecture, and most interesting to me, was Dr. Potrebica’s discussion of artifacts.  I was astounded by the quality and quantity of artifacts from each time period, with goods ranging from painted ceramic pots to frescos, to courseware, textiles and a gigantic bronze (largely intact) statue of a human figure (hypothesized to be connected to Classic Greek sculptor Lysippus).  I could not believe how beautiful the goods were, but also how well-preserved they were given their resting time in the bottom of salt water sea.  One of my favorite artifacts was the giant cannon that was found almost perfectly preserved, half submerged in the sea floor.  The intricate carvings on the cannon were beautiful.  I also really enjoyed the bell that was found because it was so rare a find.  Printed on the side was the date the bell was made, which was significant in that it could help researchers find relevant information in historical texts as to what the ship was called, the ship’s history, and how it sunk.

Last, another great part of the lecture was the small discussion of the future of underwater archaeology, specifically the construction of underwater museums.  I thought it was so ingenious to preserve the ships and the artifacts in their ‘natural’ habitats so as to not compromise the quality of the goods.  Instead of risking damage to the fragile artifacts when they are taken from the water and allowed to dry, archaeologists are caging the ships and artifacts underwater so that people can see them in a preserved state.  I would definitely visit one if I ever got the chance.

Attending this lecture was very worthwhile, since it was both interesting and informative.  I feel I now know a tiny bit about underwater archaeology in the Adriatic, which is more than I knew before the lecture.  I am amazed at the quality of the work that has been done in the past, and look forward to hearing about new discoveries in the future.

Under the Sea

Hey folks! I attended the lecture by Professor Hrvoje Potrebica on the submerged history of the Adriatic which was an overview of Croatian underwater heritage. Dr. Potrebica is associated with the University of Zagreb and is a specialist in underwater archaeology and is also president of both the Croatian Archaeological Association as well as the Center for Prehistoric Research.

I found the lecture to be rather stimulating and barely noticed that the professor was lecturing for an hour, although I did find him to be a little soft spoken. The Croatian Adriatic is a prime place to be an underwater archaeologist from what I learned in the lecture because of two main reasons. For starters, during the last glacial period (Mesolithic) era much of the Earth’s water was locked up in large land glaciers which would have had the effect of lowering global water levels. With the decrease in water levels earlier Neanderthals and modern day humans would have been occupying the natural coastline to exploit food resources as well as using the bodies of water for transport. Secondly, during the Neolithic and later ages even after the water levels were higher because of the melting of glaciers, water vessels would have been far more common and the likelihood of shipwrecks would have also been greater.

The Croatian Adriatic has 1246 islands and thousands of kilometers of coastline. There are more than 400 registered underwater archaeological sites and around 200 documented shipwrecks. Something I found to be very interesting was the mentioning of amphoras of various types. Amphoras are fired clay liquid containers that were widely used by Greeks and Romans in the Meditarranean for trade. Amphoras could hold anything from wine, olive oils, and water. They have a distinct shape are elongated with a taper towards the bottom forming a point, kind of like a more elongated egg shape in cases, because of the durability. The point allowed for a unique stacking strategy and placement in the ground for holding upright when in use or storage on land. Many of the shipwrecks in the Mediterranean have amphoras present because of their usefulness as shipping containers. Ships would measure their usefulness based on how many amphoras it could transport at a time. The ship’s hull would be full of these containers and by no coincidence many of the shipwrecks are found by amphoras still stacked in a locked pattern on the sea floor when much of the rest of the ship had already decomposed.

Dr. Potrebica mainly focused on Iron Age sites, but did mention that there were many other sites spanning from thousands of years ago to more recent times like battleships from the world wars, for example. One shipwreck was found with the ship’s bell which had the date on it of 1567! Not only were there shipwrecks and other underwater sites that were previously land sites, but there are also underwater cave sites and even a Roman aqueduct that was underground near the coast. I attended the lecture for extra credit, but I am glad I went anyway because the professor was very informative and gave some context with things I have learned about just this semester in my European archaeology class.


Submerged History of the Adriatic

This lecture was very interesting and it really added a lot to my knowledge about underwater archaeology. Dr. Potrebica seemed to be very knowledgeable in this trade even if it’s been a few years since he’s gone on an underwater excavation. I had no idea that the Croatian Adriatic was so rich in archaeological finds but it makes sense, especially because the Romans had so many trading water routes.

Dr. Potrebica started out discussing the history of underwater archaeology and he stated that the first excavation in this area was done by Frane Bulic in 1889. To me this is crazy because people back then didn’t have the advances in technology that we do which means that the site couldn’t have been too deep. This however was a one-time thing – at least for people in the 1880s – because the next excavation wasn’t until the 1960s which is a really long time without excavation.

Dr. Potrebica then discussed the four types of shipwrecks they’ve found in the sea: Neanderthals, roman, medieval, and 19th-20th century. The idea that Neanderthal artifacts were found in the water surprised me a little bit, but he then mentioned that this part of the Adriatic was once land and that the Mousterian tools found there were once in a cave. There are a lot more roman shipwrecks – a couple hundred – with a lot more artifacts. Some of the artifacts include anchors, amphorae, oil lamps, kitchen ware and even a dice and some sarcophagi (two for children and two for adults). Some of these sites even have underwater and land sites like on the Vižula Peninsula.

When medieval shipwrecks came into play there were a lot of the same types of artifacts but also some new ones like glass ware and beads, canons, sundials, brass and silver objects, padlocks, and even a jingle bell. At a wreck called Su. Pava there was even the ship’s bell with the year on it – 1567. The 19th-20th century finds are mostly from the world wars. These are sites that we can learn the most about because sometimes there are written accounts of how the wreck happened and who was involved. There’s even an American plane called the B-24J Liberator from 1944.

After discussing these archaeological finds Dr. Potrebica talked about what people are doing now to keep these sites and artifacts intact. There have been new laboratories built to study these artifacts out of the water and to keep looters from diving for artifacts to sell. Underwater museums are also being built so anyone can dive down to see certain sites without disturbing them, which I thought was the coolest thing about this lecture.

Finally Dr. Potrebica talked about a Roman bronze statue that was found accidentally by a fish photographer. The stature was almost entirely intact and in very good condition. The statue was removed and cleaned up and now it sits in a museum in Croatia where it looks like it could have been built one hundred years ago and not hundreds of years ago. The crazy part about this find is that there is another statue in a Texas museum that looks almost identical to the bronze one.

Overall this lecture was well worth going to and it really makes me want to go to Croatia and go to one of the underwater museums. It also really peaked my interest in underwater archaeology and I might think about trying to get into this when I get older.

Submerged History of the Adriatic – Bonus Assignment

Hey folks – I’m going to offer up a bonus assignment for who want it/need it.  The bonus will be worth 5%.  To get it, you need to attend the Submerged History of the Adriatic – an overview of the Croatian underwater heritage lecture that is happening on campus on April 15 at 6:30 (the full details can be found here).

To get the bonus, you also need to write up a discussion of the talk (regular blog length) and post it to the course website by 5pm on Friday the 18th (no response is required like other blogs).  This post won’t take the place of other posts…it is an extra assignment that carries a bonus.

If you have any questions, give me a shout.

Talk Abstract

Submerged History of the Adriatic – an overview of the Croatian underwater heritage

Lecturer: Hrvoje Potrebica

This lecture will provide general overview of results of almost half a century of submarine archaeology in Croatia. The underwater cultural heritage of the Adriatic Sea is extremely rich and covers almost all periods and all kinds of sites: from submerged Paleolithic sites to modern shipwrecks of the 20th century. However, majority of finds belong to the Roman Period and most of them come from shipwrecks. They reflect the importance of the Adriatic Sea as one of the transport routes closest to the very heart of the Roman Empire.