Archeo-Paleomagnetic Dating of Transport Amphoras from Submerged Contexts - ongoing

Dr. Peter Campbell, Dr. George Koutsouflakis, and Dr. Chuang Xuan

Over two seasons, the Fourni Underwater Survey has located 45 shipwrecks. While many more shipwrecks are expected to be found over the final two years of the survey, these shipwreck already represent a substantial dataset offering insight into eastern Mediterranean trade from the Archaic through the Medieval Period. The project directors are committed to conducting a thorough investigation of these assemblages for publication. This application is for funding to analyze the amphoras from Fourni Underwater Survey using a variety of methods. The findings are expected to inform terrestrial and maritime archaeology throughout the Mediterranean. In particular, the research can significantly develop the discipline through the application of archeo­paleomagnetism dating for amphora from marine environments.

“Archeo­paleomagnetic dating” is a term that refers to determining the date of an archaeological material through its ancient magnetic signature. This method allows for the direct dating of ceramics. To date, amphoras have been dated based on stylistic features, creating amphora typologies, and given dates based on stratigraphic location of these amphora fragments from terrestrial contexts. It is also possible to use radiocarbon dating on organic material found inside amphoras, when organics have survived. Rigorous scholarship by many archaeologists has led to some well ­established amphora typologies that are dateable to 25­50 years, but less well ­attested amphora types have wide date ranges, sometimes as much as a century or more. The ability to produce direct dates from ceramics could contribute to well established typologies, while offering far more refined dates for less established typologies.

Paleomagnetism is a relatively new method for direct dating of ceramics (a full description of the method is included in the Methodology section) and the Fourni project would be – to the knowledge of the authors – the first application of this method for submerged contexts. Using the latest equipment at the National Oceanography Centre under the direction of director Dr. Chuang Xuan, it is hoped that this application of paleomagnetism to shipwreck cargos will be a significant contribution to the dating of amphora typologies and re­assess the dates of different types.