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SUBMERSED MEMORIES OF ANCIENT ROUTES-Potteries and tales from the late Roman Age

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Abstract

A Biosphere Reserve is potentially a privileged place in order to conduct biodiversity studies and cultural heritage focused research. The acronym “MaB” underlies the strict relationship between ecological and social aspects. The Circeo MaB Reserve at national level represents the very first place where the proof of concept of the Man and Biosphere research Program arose in 1970s. To date this visionary approach still being valuable and represents a source of inspiration even for the youngest and the most curiosity-driven researchers. The Mediterranean Sea has always been a bridge for cultures and peoples flourishing along its shores. The Pontine littoral area itself, not so far from Rome, is part of an historically highly frequented waterway route and evidences of this vocation still resurfaces from time to time even thousands of years later. That is the case of a recent discovery occurred along the littoral area of Latina Municipality thanks to the documentation shared by a local diver.
DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.18131249
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Short communication
Gaglioti M.
SUBMERSED MEMORIES OF ANCIENT ROUTES- Potteries and tales from the late Roman Age
Introduction
A Biosphere Reserve is potentially a privileged place in order to conduct biodiversity studies and cultural
heritage focused research. The acronym “MaB” underlies the strict relationship between ecological and social
aspects. The Circeo MaB Reserve at national level represents the very first place where the proof of concept
of the Man and Biosphere research Program arose in 1970s. To date this visionary approach still being valuable
and represents a source of inspiration even for the youngest and the most curiosity-driven researchers. The
Mediterranean Sea has always been a bridge for cultures and peoples flourishing along its shores. The Pontine
littoral area itself, not so far from Rome, is part of an historically highly frequented waterway route and
evidences of this vocation still resurfaces from time to time even thousands of years later. That is the case of
a recent discovery occurred along the littoral area of Latina Municipality thanks to the documentation shared
by a local diver.
Material and methods
The finding occurred during a SCUBA diving session and this contribution is the result of some oral insights given
by a local diver.
Study area
Latina is a seaside town but still being a not marine place, which means a strange relationship with its coastal
area limited to a very narrow summer season use and a very limited attitude toward any cultural intiative
associated to any kind of seafaring knowledge.
The repeated discovery of archeological findings on the sandy sea bottoms off Latina Municipality coastal
area (Foce Verde locality), over the years, testified the richness of this zone even from an historical perspective.
On this purpose, among the Reserve designation criteria the historical and cultural aspects are relevant to be
considered in order to gain the UNESCO acknowledgement proper of places valuable for a heritage recognition
even at intergovernmental level. An acknowledgment which still being unknown to the main part of the local
inhabitants and deserving to be more well understood by local people, even by the most experienced local
divers.
Results
According to some experts’ visual evaluations the fragment might be attributable to an amphora dating back
to late Roman age of African origin (possibly Tunisian), datable around the 4th or 5th century AD (Fig.1).
The remain is quite small and was observed quite near to the coastline because of the current-driven
movements, therefore the site of observation is not reliable in order to reconstruct the morphological features
of the original lying area. The acquired information are not sufficient in order to say if the fragment was located
in an archeologically relevant zone, since the most acceptable explanation for the fragment positioning is a
current-driven transport toward the shallow sandy bottom where the manufact has been collected. The only
available information is that it was located on a sandy bottom at 10 m depth and no other manufacts or wrecks
have been observed by the diver in the nearby. Therefore, not so far from the finding location, in the past,
several evidences of ancient wrecks and buried pottery elements has been already highlighted. The persistence
of the recovered fragment under the marine sediment for such a long time is testified by the biofouling acted
by some encrusting colonizers such as: tubicolous polychaeta and calcifying bryozoans (Fig. 2).
Discussion
In the last few decades several studies and underwater excavation campaigns confirmed the presence of some
nautical remains and intact shipwrecks even in the Pontine area, often associated with some pottery fragments
buried under the sandy bottoms and the scattered seagrass meadows patches. The latter are not always synonym
of effective wreck presence, since for the smallest one even the current actions can contribute to the middle
and short-range dislodgment and water-driven transport. Additionally, the image and photogrammetric
DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.18131249
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acquisitions allowed to reconstruct also the 3D structure of some remains which still being buried under the
sediment offshore. In this way an accurate and undestructive intervention from the experts and researchers is
possible and the risk for inaccurate removals or too invasive approaches are minimized.
Due to the lack of proper regulations up to the early twenties when a specific convention on the underwater
cultural heritage has been implemented at intergovernmental level, especially among the oldest generations,
still being present the attitude toward the use of destructive sampling methods including physical removals
and collection of retrieved objects and manufacts. This approach is no longer allowable considering the most
updated regulations in force and the availability of more technologies than in the past (Sánchez Patrón et al.,
2014). Nowadays, the most recent technology advancements allow us to study this fragile portion of heritage
even without unnecessary removals, which might result into unrecoverable alterations of the original lying
conditions.
Up until recently, the high economic and technical efforts required in order to recover the buried remains
deeply and negatively affected the reclamation of this kind of heritage from the sea bottoms (Memet et al.,
2008). For this reason, almost all the material still being naturally protected in the natural contexts (Khakzad
& Van Balen, 2012), the exact positioning information and the local ecological knowledge is guarded only by
experienced divers and archeosub enthusiasts of the area. This contributed to preserve them in the long-term
perspective. Contrarywise, the more updated technologies and the most accurate habitat mapping techniques
can be used in order to obtain a detailed data acquisition, preserving the delicate remains in their original
positions and make the locals aware even of the underwater heritage presence. Engaging people through more
sustainable approaches, for instance relying on artificial intelligence or gamification approaches applied to
cultural heritage findings for virtual exploration experiences might be the key (Mohamad et al., 2018;
Napolitano et al., 2018). In addition, this perspective represents a quite recent field of knowledge with wide
margins of improvement in the near future.
From a policy perspective, within the regulatory framework, the Underwater Heritage Convention integrates
and expands the international provisions for the protection of the submerged cultural heritage already present
in the United Nations on the Law of the Sea, also providing for the possibility of drafting complementary
regional agreements strengthening the prevention and existing protection.
Up to 2001, when the first official document on the underwater heritage came to the wider audience
knowledge, a lot of historical remains have been stolen from the underwater heritage sites. In the past, as
occurred for some valuable biological resources such as the red coral (e.g., Corallium rubrum) or other
commercially relevant species, such as endolithic bivalves (e.g., Lithophaga lithophaga), the lack of
knowledge determined often an uncontrolled removal or illegal trading of submersed objects and/or organisms
with a significant impoverishment and permanent damaging of the stricken heritage as a whole (Zamora T.V.,
2008). Beside the proper research activities, a flourishing illegal trade of materials arose and nowadays some
old-fashioned characters still doing unvaluable damages trying to perpetrate their underwater activities in this
unrespectful ways. By the way, in a suffering and increasingly threatened Ocean, a greater intergenerational
dialogue effort is essential in order to fill these current gaps and make the past technical and inspirational
background more suitable to current times. This might be the concrete way for the most eminent experts in
order to help the youngest generations to go ahead with their insight but with the great advantage and the
valuable support of the most updated technologies. On this perspective, turning the previous efforts they made
during their careers into the baseline for future achievements, with the advantages of a more mindful approach
(Scott-Ireton, D. A., & McKinnon, J. F., 2015). The young people might be lucky enough to act with a greater
consciousness and make a successful use of a larger availability of technological supports (Soler et al., 2017;
Napolitano et al., 2018), turning into a valuable background the wealth of knowledge based on methodological
aspects and previous experiences evidences.
At the beginning will be a little bit hard to fight the resistance of the old guard, but in the long run, if the
common goal is to advance knowledge and effectively preserve the cultural heritage when we are lucky enough
to impact us in some of its manifestations, some unpleasant barriers could also disappear and the
intergenerational dialogue can be an add value for common objectives achievement.
DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.18131249
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To date a relevant number of boats from different historical periods still being unveiled to give precise
indications on how much the route to Rome and Anzio toward the Pontine Archipelago and the most southern
ward routes was exploited by different peoples. Wrecks that share spaces with the remains of much more recent
ships, for instance the ships sunk during the war readdress to an additional field of investigation. The main
priority is an agreement aimed at the development of synergistic activities in various areas of common interest,
including activities designed to promote the development of the culture of cultural heritage as well as the
training of specialized and qualified personnel in the cultural heritage sector (Scott-Ireton, D. A., & McKinnon,
J. F., 2015). To encourage the interdisciplinarity among the natural-ecological and historical-archaeological
sectors, the common activities will also aim, as far as possible, to favor the connection between education,
research, study and work in compliance with the fundamental principles of the Italian Constitution, in
particular with articles 1 and 9.
Currently the described finding has been personally entrusted to the local division and is awaiting appropriate
cataloging from the experts before its publicly accessible exposition. According to the National
Superintendence of Maritime Archeological Heritage the manufact will be soon exposed in a local museum
where other objects collected in the past from the same maritime area are already stored. A small victory for a
modern city like Latina, which is thirsty for history!
Acknowledgments
I wish to thank A.S. for the first communication and the archeologists B. Davidde and C. Aguilar for their
technical advices and confirmations in order to pursue a more ethical route in terms of heritage conservation
for the aforementioned fragment. I recognize also the National and local division of Underwater Heritage
Superintendence for the useful insights in order to turn this fortuitous discovery into an occasion to enrich the
local community of my home town and the cultural heritage of the city of reference. A warm thank to Dr. E.
Orlandi and Dr. C. Delpino for their timely intervention and for their commitment in following the manufact
fate.
References
Di Rosa A. (2021). Nuovi bolli su anfore da Terracina-Agro pontino New amphora stamps from
Terracina -Southern Pontine Plain. 10.13140/RG.2.2.18653.13289.
Khakzad, S., & Van Balen, K. (2012). Complications and effectiveness of in situ preservation
methods for underwater cultural heritage sites. Conservation and Management of Archaeological
Sites, 14(1-4), 469-478.
Memet, J. B. (2008). Conservation of Underwater Cultural Heritage: characteristics and new
technologies. Museum International, 60(4), 42-49.
Mohamad, S. N. M., Sazali, N. S. S., & Salleh, M. A. M. (2018). Gamification approach in education
to increase learning engagement. Int. J. Humanit. Arts Soc. Sci, 4(1), 22-32.
Napolitano, R. K., Scherer, G., & Glisic, B. (2018). Virtual tours and informational modeling for
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Sánchez Patrón, J. M., Bou Franch, V., & Juste Ruiz, J. (2014). Derecho del mar y sostenibilidad
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Scott-Ireton, D. A., & McKinnon, J. F. (2015). As the sand settles: Education and archaeological
tourism on underwater cultural heritage. public archaeology, 14(3), 157-171.
DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.18131249
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Soler, F., Melero, F. J., & Luzón, M. V. (2017). A complete 3D information system for cultural
heritage documentation. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 23, 49-57.
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UOS2014=UniversityofSouthampton,RomanAmphorae:adigitalresource[dataset],York,2014(https://
doi.org/10.5284/1028192
https://www.unesco.beniculturali.it/pdf/ConvenzionePatrimoniosubacqueo2001-ITA.pdf
Figure 1 Some details of the retrieved fragment (Ph. M. Gaglioti)
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Figure 2 A littoral area in the nearby of the finding along the pontine coast (Ph. M. Gaglioti)
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Figure 3 Surficial concretions observed on the fragment of the amphora (Ph. M. Gaglioti)
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  • L Zagato
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