Underwater exploration around the Aegadian Islands: more than just archaeology

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During underwater dives, we often find much more than we were expecting: the depths of the sea offer a wealth of surprises for those who dare to venture down there, with the support of cutting-edge equipment such as Suex DPVs: this was the case of the SDSS expedition around the Aegadian Islands.

As you might have read in one of our Suex Stories, the SDSS (Società per la Documentazione di Siti Sommersi, the Society for the Documentation of Submerged Sites) has begun an underwater exploration of the stretch of sea between Marettimo, Levanzo and Favignana in Sicily, Italy, to study the wrecks of an important naval battle fought in Ancient Roman times.

The expedition is not only of an archaeological nature, however: while the main objective is undoubtedly to recover and study the largest possible number of objects from the oldest battlefield so far discovered, it’s equally interesting to observe how nature has adapted to their presence.

For over 2000 years, these artificial elements have lain on the bottom of the sea, long since beyond the reach of those who originally built them, but at the disposal of numerous sea creatures: the remains of the Roman and Carthaginian ships sunk during the Battle of the Aegates in 241 BC have thus become the ideal habitat for numerous marine species.

A previous expedition had already observed the wealth of marine fauna present at the site: of all the findings, the most impressive was the ram of a Carthaginian ship colonised by at least 114 species of invertebrates, which had created a complex coexisting community.

Specifically, as reported by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) via EurekAlert:

The ram, nicknamed ‘Egadi 13’, was recovered in 2017 from the seabed around 90 meters deep by marine archeologists from the Soprintendenza del Mare della Regione Sicilia, directed by Dr Sebastiano Tusa, in collaboration with divers from the organization Global Underwater Explorers.

It consists of a single, hollow piece of bronze, engraved with an undeciphered Punic inscription, and is around 90cm long, 5cm thick at the front edge, and has a weight of 170kg. Because the ram is hollow, it has accumulated organisms and sediments inside as well as outside.

The team responsible for the find were able to recover the ram, thus allowing two-fold research to be undertaken, both archaeological and biological, with a view to reconstructing how the colonisation occurred and obtaining information useful for the preservation of marine fauna.

The first report published in Frontiers in Marine Science:

Ram 13, which remained on the sedimentary seafloor for more than 2000 years, has had sufficient time to establish a long term stable community composed of both hard- and soft-bottom benthic organisms. […] The ram highlights the dynamics of biological colonization on a large spatial scale and serves as a relevant proxy for the study of marine biodiversity. […] The presence of species in the ram assemblage that are common to different habitats serves as “ecological memory” of the occurrence of such habitats in the surrounding seabed and highlights the high marine biodiversity in the Aegadian archipelago region.

We can thus only imagine how many other historical and zoological discoveries that might be made by the SDSS expedition, led by Mario Arena, thanks to the know-how of the organisation and the technology of the underwater scooters supplied by Suex.

Our DPV scooters are a valuable ally for divers worldwide, from explorers such as Mario Arena to simple aficionados seeking to discover the underwater world.