Honor Frost’s unpublished manuscript, The Second Life of a Phoenix. Portrait of a Punic Ship Resurrected in a Sicilian Town, traces her experiences as director of the Punic ship excavation project in Sicily. Found among Ms. Frost’s papers in London in 2013, her first-hand account offers a unique understanding of the real import of this seminal pioneering excavation, its aftermath, and its significance to the history of archaeology.
Honor Frost was responsible for finding, excavating, treating and displaying the timbers of the Punic naval vessel that came to grief off the coast near Marsala, western Sicily in the mid-third century BCE. Since discovering the wreck-site in July 1971, Frost worked for a number of years with the essential help of the local community and indirectly with other underwater archaeologists who shared their often experimental expertise in maritime excavation and conservation techniques. In addition to the difficulties of managing a complex archaeological project in a region with relatively modest amenities at the time, Frost contended with an increasingly intractable combination of local and national bureaucratic hurdles over the course of several decades.
Much like the mythical bird that Frost chose to symbolize the entire project, the history of Frost’s “Phoenix” manuscript reflects the vicissitudes of the ancient ship itself, going through several phases since she first started writing it in the early 1980s, and even being abandoned several times.
The authors, under auspices of the Honor Frost Foundation, intend to restore Frost’s manuscript to publishable form, and provide an accurate translation into Italian for a bilingual edition, as she had originally planned. Additional editorial chapters will locate her book within its broader historical context. The resulting publication — partly autobiographical and partly biographical — will provide unique insights into Frost’s life and work, and bring her Sicilian chronicles to a wide audience.