The scope of the collections

In 1946, a group of citizens from Istres with a passion for history founded the Society of Friends of Old Istres. They collected materials of all sorts, but especially those concerned with the sea. They also established a museum in 1947. The collections of archeological undersea artifacts consist of objects either taken from shipwrecks or found individually in the Gulf of Fos. After the creation of the new museum in 1989, its collections were enriched by a donation from the French government.

Bronze, 1st century AD?

The bronze head of a wild boar, figure from the prow of a Roman warship, is the pride of the museum...

...but the most remarkable collection is that of painted symbols (on the walls of amphoras). Veritable commercial labels, these marks give us information on the product that was transported, its age, and the exporting merchant. Sometimes, they specify the date the amphora was filled and its country of origin. This collection is the largest in the world.
Mainly three products were transported in amphoras: wine, olive oil, and fish sauces and preserves. Other products are exceptional: salted meats, nuts, peas, etc.

Saint-Gervais 3 Shipwreck
Painted symbols, 150 AD.

Fos 1 and Saint-Gervais 1 Shipwrecks

The shipwreck Fos 1, dating to circa 50 BC, contained Italian wine, pottery from Campania and Aretina, and bowls (or lids) in common pottery. The shipwreck Saint-Gervais 1 had a cargo of iron bars and lead ingots. It dates to AD 138-139.
The shipwreck Saint-Gervais 3 had a cargo of olive oil from the South of Spain, two double-walled copper cauldrons, forerunners of the thermos, glass perfume flasks, amphoras for on-board supplies, some of which still contained fish, and various other objects. It dates to about AD 150.

Saint-Gervais 3 Shipwreck

Room with amphoras
and ships' equipment


Everyday objects

Cooking dishes


Photos : Ph. Foliot (CNRS), G. Fraissenet, Martine Sciallano © Musée archéologique d'Istres