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Holidays in Qrt Hdst

I have been on holidays at the end of the civilized world, in the savage island the Hellenes call Ichnusa and the local barbaroi call Sardegna. I just visited the Phoenician city of Qrt Hdst, which will soon become Punic, and then Roman and will get the name of Tharros, then Vandal, then Byzantine, then will die. It is a very rich city because it's a center of maritime traffic, but unfortunately its port is not visible today: it has not been found yet. It is supposed to be still buried in a lagoon which formed after the city decayed in the IX century a.c..

On the right, Qrt Hdst's port. Hmmm....

However, there is a nautically interesting thing in the local museum, and that is the wreck of an unnamed freighter lost in the proximity of a small island called the Mal di Ventre (Stomachache.. maybe after the shipowner's reaction when he got the news?).

The ship was fairly big, around 36 mt. long, so almost like a trireme. According to some coins found aboard in a position which suggest these were for good luck, the freighter was probably built in Syracuse. We do not know why or how it sunk, but it must have happened between 80 and 50 a.c.. The actual wreck has been left at sea because too much damaged. However its cargo has been fully recovered and it's a novelty: it is over 1000 bars of lead, coming from Cartago Nova in Spain, each bar weighting around 33 kg. Apparently this discovery doubled the total amount of Roman-era lead bars ever discovered, and allowed the archeologists to have much clearer ideas on how much, and how, this metal was commercialized at the time.

All bars are stamped with the name of the producers. Most of them were provided by the Pontilieni brothers, Marcus and Caius. So, here below, the inscription reads: SOC(ietas) M(arci et) C(ai) PONTILIENORUM M(arci) F(iliorum): that is, "produced by the company of Marcus and Caius Pontilieni, sons of Marcus".

Other interesting stuff is to be found among the tools used onboard. First, these nasty, huge metal nails with square heads. There were a lot of those and where nailed to the keel, protruding between 40 and 80 cm. Archeologists believe these were used to support a load plan specifically designed to carry the weight of the lead bars with a correct distribution.

Finally, the freighter also carried five anchors, some of lead and some of iron, one of which was a spare never used. Apparently the nicest of those were graced with images of astragalus flowers (below, on the left) and dolphins (on the right). Unfortunately the dolphin is barely readable.... it took me ages to find it!

Can you spot the dolphin...?

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