The armored frigate Magenta was constructed between 1859 and 1861 in Brest, based on a design by Dupuy de Lôme. On 31 October 1875, while it was serving as the flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet, it caught fire and exploded in the harbor of Toulon. It was about to embark on a trip to Tunis to ship the finds from excavations conducted at Carthage by Pricot de Sainte-Marie, the interpreter at the French consulate at Tunis, for the Institut de France: more than 2000 Punic steles of the second century BC from Tophet, the Punic necropolis of Carthage. Also part of the cargo was a marble statue of the Empress Sabine.
Using a magnetometer, the wreck was detected in April of 1994, resting at a depth of 15 meters in the military harbor. During an initial survey, two stele fragments were recovered.

In April/May of 1995, an excavation was conducted under the sponsorship of the Institut, aided by the French Navy, and under the patronage of the Louis Roederer Association. On 9 May, the head of the statue of Empress Sabine, wife of the Emperor Hadrian (AD117 to 138), was salvaged.
After a preliminary treatment at the laboratory of Archéolyse International, the Institut gave the head to the Louvre, where it rejoined the rest of the statue, which had been retrieved in 1875 by Navy divers.

Separated for 120 years, the head and its headdress were reunited on 18 December 1995.

Fragment of a Punic stele with an engraved hand, symbol of prayer.

In May/June of 1997, a second excavation campaign has permitted to bring to light about sixty fragments of Punic steles and three new fragments of empress Sabine’s statue. The steles bear at the same time a carved dedication in Punic language; symbolic patterns like the sign of Tanit, fecundity goddess, or the open hand, sign of prayer or wish ; the representation of slaughtered animals (sheep, rams) or simple ornamental patterns.

Excavation directed by Max Guérout (Group for Research into Naval Archeology).

Photos :
Musée de la Marine (1)
Louis Roederer/Guy Martin/GRAN (n°2 et n°3)
Léauté and Danet (n°4)