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Review of the Conference on Underwater Archaeology. Anzio - Paradiso Sul Mare (30th - 31st May, 1st June 1996)

This year the town of Anzio gave host to the Conference of Underwater Archaeology, the latter being promoted by the Italian Association of Underwater Archaeologists (A.I.A. SUB). This years congress, presented a whole series of interesting communications which furnished a whole panorama of results derived from marine archeaological research. The Anzio meeting was not only a series of rigorous contributions, but also an occasion to confront many key problems pertaining to methodology and site protection. The review given here deals only with those papers concerning methodology and excavations of the post-classical period. For all other contributions, the reader should consult the forthcoming publication. The themes chosen for debate were far from monotonous. Besides studies of the finds taken off the sea bed, the attention of the symposiasts was focused firmly on many other broad inter-related themes, for example, the reconstruction of trade routes and the various types of craft used in antiquity. Concerning the latter, S. Medas gave a paper entitled "Imbarcazioni monossili: letteratura antica e archeologia," in which he states that the aforementioned vessel was rowed on rivers and lakes but could also be used at sea with the aid of a sail. By means of a thorough analysis of the antique sources, the author was able to conclude that this particular type of boat was in use from Early Pre-Historic times right up into modern times, and in so doing, underlines the technical and cultural continuity traceable in boat building throughout this period.
The paper of C. Beltrame, entitled 'Distribuzione dei reperti e riconoscimento dei processi formativi del relitto,' adopts a methodological approach when highlighting errors current in marine archaeology. One apparently is the tendency amongst archaeologists to consider their finds purely in the light of their intrinsic value, and not in the historical context in which they are found. The author highlights the importance of attempting to isolate the actual causes and dynamics of shipwrecks, underlining the need for careful excavation and prudent data interpretation in furthering these ends. As a result, he laments the serious lack of attention and negligence in exploring the various ways in which these vessels succumbed and sank. This oversight, according to Beltrame, is in part attributable to a certain school of archaeological thought which reveals itself little inclined towards tackling these important methodological questions, and equally to poor excavation technique. As a consequence, a more rigorous adoption of stratigraphic method is called.
Particularly crisp and incisive was the communication of G. Volpe, entitled 'Dieci anni di ricerca a Hyeres in Provence,' written in co-operation with L. Long. This paper gives a detailed picture of the finds so far brought to light in Provence. The research here presented was conducted by the Dipartimento di Studi Classici e Cristiani dell'Universitŕ di Bari in collaboration with DRASSM (Département des recherches subaquatiques et sous-marines de Marseille.) It shows a series of wrecks, one of which was identified as a Sixth Century A.D. cargo vessel. Of particular interest was the discovery of a wooden chest containing weighing scales and weights of Justin II. The speaker also explained that this research took place during a student training excavation, something which, the speaker sadly adds, one rarely encounters in marine archaeology. Volpe does not hesitate to draw attention to the fact that, more often than not, on under water sites, the didactic aspect is either swept aside or hardly entered upon.
The paper given by S. Bargagliotti, entitled 'Vasi per la pesca del polpo,' deals exclusively with the subject of material culture. On the basis of a comparative study, he suggests an early medieval date for a group of pottery which was perhaps destined in this period for use in the fishing of octopus.
The communication of R.Silvetti and V. Gavini, entitled 'Ricerche sub-acquee nella Sardegna Nord -Occidentale (1992-95)', describes the excavation of wreck 'B' datable to the end of the Fifteenth Century, located off the coast of Alghero (SS). Of the material brought to light, attention was drawn to various pieces of course woven cloth found inside a container and a number of cloth covered bone buttons. Also recovered were pieces of slip wares and small glazed pitchers.
The establishment of a good working relationship between archaeology and computerised technology by M. D'Agostino and L. Fozzati has led to the creation a computerised archaeological map. This communication entitled 'Venezia: territorio sommerso e tutela,' deals with a project concerning the submerged sites in the Venetian Lagoon, the first of its kind in the field of marine archaeology. The advantages offered by the use of computer technology in the collection and treatment of data are clearly evident, rendering the collected information more accessible.
The series of communications drawing to a close, a short film was presented in memory of N. Lamboglia, showing some of the many marine excavations carried out during his directorship of the 'Centro Sperimentale di Albenga.' F. Pallarés recalled how this archaeologist in his daily work constantly applied himself with great energy to all the numerous problems in marine archaeological research.
A round-table composed of both symposiasts and journalists concluded the conference. P.A. Gianfrotta criticised the way in which archaeological finds are often portrayed by the press, emphasising their purely economic value to the detriment of their cultural and historic interest. Past experience has shown that this effectively incites further covert and illegal digging on the part of private individuals. On the theme of marine site protection, the desire was expressed for more public awareness concerning the need to preserve sites and guard against their violation.

Elisabetta Garau

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