Researchers look for ancient trade routes at the bottom of the Mediterranean

"I'm thinking about that transition in history and how movement of material objects reflects those transitions," researcher Carrie Fulton said.
By Brooks Hays  |  Oct. 9, 2017 at 2:50 PM
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Oct. 9 (UPI) -- A team of researchers from the University of Toronto are retracing the paths of Bronze Age Mediterranean traders by studying ancient anchorages along the coast of Cyprus.

Over the past summer, U of T archaeologist Carrie Fulton led daily dives to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea in search of insights into the economic and cultural relations among ancient peoples of the Mediterranean. The team of scientists are now reviewing their findings and preparing for next year's season of field work.

Fulton and her fellow researchers are specifically focused on ancient stone block anchors and what the artifacts reveal about the nature of trade between 300 BC and 300 AD, from the late Bronze Age to the early Roman period.

"I'm thinking about that transition in history and how movement of material objects reflects those transitions," Fulton said in a news release. "In particular, I'm curious about how we can look at cultural interactions by studying how objects were moved, and how cultural ideas were embedded and changed as objects moved across different regions."

When Fulton and her colleagues study anchorage sites and different types of anchoring technologies, they're trying to determine what physical objects can tell them about the way ancient people moved goods from place to place, as well as how trading patterns changed over time.

The ancient stone anchors feature holes through which rope was tied. Some of the stone squares were as wide as three feet and weighed more than 350 pounds.

Their surveys of each anchor and the surrounding area doesn't differ all that much from the way archaeologists approach a site of interest on land. The land is staked and aerial photos are taken. But the work is conducted underwater, with researchers in full scuba gear.

"We systematically survey the area by swimming back and forth, searching for pottery and other cultural material near the anchors that can give us clues into the frequency of use of the site or the types of materials being transported," said Fulton.

The team of archaeologists plans to continue their survey of the regions' anchorage over the next two summers. They hope their findings will offer new clues to the nature of trade in the ancient Mediterranean.

Their most recent dives turned up a number of interesting stone blocks with evidence of masonry methods used for elite Bronze Age architecture.

"Would these have been going to some elite building, or was it part of an anchorage system, or evidence of Roman or modern looting of late Bronze Age sites?" Fulton said. "Next summer, we'll excavate around them and lift them up. I hope we'll find clues about what they were used for."

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