Unearthing the Past in the Mediterranean Sea

Genevieve Griffin, Guest Writer~

Bridget Buxton, an archaeologist at the University of Rhode Island, gave a lecture on Roman shipwrecks on Thursday, Nov. 9 at Lynchburg College.

Buxton, who specializes in underwater archaeology, visited the underwater port Caesarea in Israel, which was built by Roman Emperor Herod. Herod’s port is a man-made port, which has never been fully explored. The only known structure, other than the port and seawall, was one lighthouse.

Before 2016, the map of the port was drawn only using aerial photos. However, because of coastal erosion, a shipwreck was found in the underwater port.

The port at Caesarea was recently explored because of this shipwreck, and its boundaries were redrawn with the latest mapping technology. Archaeologists found scrap metal as well as other artifacts.

Archaeologist Bridget Buxton with coins found from site. Photo retrieved from uri.edu. Nov. 14.

Archaeologist Bridget Buxton with coins found from site. Photo retrieved from uri.edu. Nov. 14.

When the map of the ancient port was redrawn, a second lighthouse was discovered. Lighthouses were not used for night-time navigation at the time. Instead, the Romans used the stars for navigation. The discovery of the second lighthouse is important, because it lines up with the first lighthouse to confirm the ancient trade routes of the Romans. The second lighthouse’s discovery was overshadowed by the final point of Buxton’s lecture.

While taking samples of the lighthouse, a well preserved piece of wood was discovered. Buxton noted that this was an unexpected find. A tsunami in ancient times caused the port city to fall into the Mediterranean Sea, which preserved remains of the city under a thick layer of sand. However, archaeologists currently lack the technology to recover the wreckage due to the vast amounts of sand.

Buxton hopes to continue her pursuit of answers about the Caesarea port. She has plans to visit the Titanic’s wreckage next year as well.