This project is part of an extensive PhD research, under the title ‘The Transport of Sculptures in the Ancient Mediterranean’ examining the maritime transport of freestanding sculptures in the Mediterranean throughout different periods of Antiquity, from c.6th century BC to 6th century AD.
From the 18th century onwards various ancient statues have been discovered in the waters of the Mediterranean from the context of shipwrecks, potential unrecorded shipwrecks or out of context as isolated finds. Scholars so far have analysed several of those sculptural finds mainly from an art historical perspective basing the interpretation of their underwater deposition only in possible hypotheses and not on archaeological data due to the problematic recording of their context. This new PhD research though examines this sculptural material from a maritime archaeological perspective. With a focus on the underwater context, the aim is to comprehend the various reasons for freestanding sculptures being transported on board ancient merchant vessels and consequently deposited in the Mediterranean Sea.
The shipwreck of Caesarea, discovered in spring 2016 by recreational scuba divers and recorded by archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the University of Rhode Island under the direction of Dr Jacob Sharvit, is one of the latest and highest potential case studies of this PhD research. The sculptural material retrieved from the seabed and the late antique date of the site, according to the contextual artefacts found, have a connection of this case study with four other shipwrecks: Megadim in Israel, Ayia Galini in Greece, Brindisi in Italy and Favaritx in Menorca, Spain. All of those wrecks show evidence for the transport of fragmented bronze statuary together with other metal objects intended to be traded as scrap.
The recording of the material from the shipwreck of Caesarea will enable the comparative analysis of this archaeological data with the archaeological record preserved in the other shipwrecks mentioned above. Additionally, the study of the material from such a recent shipwreck discovery is a unique chance to record sculptural material found underwater in context and prove the importance of the preservation, investigation and analysis of the underwater deposits to comprehend the circumstances for the maritime transport of ancient statuary.