The Classification of Maritime Commerce

Greek pottery from the Lequin 1 shipwreck

The chronological scope for antiquity is quite large, ranging from the sixth century BC (wreck of Pointe de Lequin) up to the fifth century AD (wreck at Cap Dramont E). The predominant period is that of the second century BC to the second century AD.
Thematically, research is conducted into the great trade routes (wreck of the Madrague de Giens and Arles IV), and equally into the commerce of redistribution (Cavalière shipwreck). Substantial attention is devoted to the trade in metals (Bagaud 2 shipwreck) and construction materials (Carry-le-Rouet, Frioul, Cap Dramont G ... shipwrecks). Other research goes into current problems concerning little-known products: Dr. 26 amphoras (Camarat 2) or a novel means of conveyance: the dolia (Grand Ribaud D ... shipwreck).

The Middle Ages and the Modern Period
Conversely, the High Middle Ages and Middle Ages have been subject of little research, because of the scarcity of finds from that period. Only two research operations for the Modern era have been organized. Nonetheless, we should recall two rescue and exploration projects for the Modern period, the Sardinaux shipwreck (metal trade in the early seventeenth century), and the Arles 1 beach shipwreck (metal trade in the early eighteenth century). These justified continuous interest in this period. For the nineteenth century, one can think of the Il Ghiasone shipwreck (1834), nicknamed "Medallions", which was part of the trade in trinkets.

Cavalaire shipwreck
late Middle Ages

Casket from the Palud shipwreck
(VI century AD)

Today, research is conducted on the least-studied periods (High Antiquity, Lower Roman Empire, High Middle Ages, and Modernity), and on the types of trade that are least known. Nonetheless, one must take into account the important differences in problematic approaches to different periods or products that have been introduced by methods of preservation. If numerous aspects of ancient maritime trade still have to be studied, virtually everything concerning the Middle Ages (in both Mediterranean trade relations between the North and South, Orient and Occident, and between the Mediterranean and Northern Europe) still has to be investigated. A lot of work also has to be done on the trade in large goods in the Modern period.

Another subject of investigation deals with the systematic preservation and stowage of cargo, together with data on the configuration of ships' fixtures and equipment. In order to uncover commercial connections, ships' itineraries and cargoes have to be examined, together with problems of production and distribution of goods. Preference is given to the excavation and scrutiny of sites that are best preserved as intact units. In most cases, multi-disciplinary crews are employed to cooperate with teams of related projects.

Study of the cargo
of the Roman shipwreck
Arles IV

Some of these objectives involve the study of new sites, and thus the potential survey of such sites must be given preference. These prospecting operations, most notably those dealing with sites of Post-Antiquity, are conducted in collaboration with historians for the establishment of preliminary archives.

Photos : Philippe Folliot (CNRS/CCJ), Margo Derain, Denis Metzger (DRASSM), Gribouille.