Spanish Archaeologists Devise Rescue Plan for 2,500-year-old Phoenician Shipwreck

Spanish Archaeologists Devise Rescue Plan for 2,500-year-old Phoenician Shipwreck

BY: Patrick Beech

To recover it from the sea before a storm destroys it forever, a group of Spanish archaeologists have made detailed diagrams of a 2,500-year-old Phoenician shipwreck.

Named after the municipality in the south-eastern Spanish region of Murcia where it was found off the coast, the eight-metre-long Mazarron II is a unique piece of ancient maritime engineering.

The Phoenicians, from coastal areas of present-day Lebanon and Syria, had established colonies and trading posts throughout the Mediterranean from 1,500 BC to 300 BC and historians have used the Mazarron II, to document how they shipped metals such as lead from the Iberian Peninsula.

After it sank, it remained buried in sediment for more than two millennia until changes in sea currents due to construction on the shore unearthed it almost 30 years ago. The wreck now lies under about 1.7 metres (5.6 ft) of crystal-clear Mediterranean water, surrounded by sandbags and a metal structure built for protection.

A total of nine technicians from the University of Valencia underwent 560 hours of scuba diving over more than two weeks in June to record all the cracks and fissures in the ship, which lies 60 metres (66 yards) from the Mazarron's Playa de la Isla.

The experts will be recommending how to protect and retrieve the wreck as early next summer.

According to archaeologist Carlos de Juan from the University of Valencia-Institute of Nautical Archaeology, who coordinated the project, the wreck and be extracted piece by piece using the existing cracks and reassembled out of the water like a puzzle.

"It is more reasonable to rescue the ship, treat it and exhibit it in a museum for people to enjoy it, rather than worrying every time a big storm arrives," he said.