National Geographic : 1969 Feb
ago. This massive burden had weighted down the timbers. Protective sands built up over the wreck site, sealing away the wood from all elements except salt water. We had come to the Gulf of Taranto, under the boot of Italy, following a hot trail that started off Methoni near the southwestern tip of Greece (map, page 287). Bits of pottery found there, under a sunken cargo of half finished granite sarcophagi, allowed us to date that wreck in the third century A.D. We de duced that the vessel had been bound for Italy. At Ravenna archeologists have found identical stone coffins. A paper I had published on the Methoni wreck caught the eye of Professor John Ward Perkins, director of the British School at Rome and an expert on the Roman marble trade. Professor Ward-Perkins had read reports of sunken shiploads of marble off France and Greece, and especially in the Gulf of Taranto. Italian divers, sent out by the National Museum in Taranto before World War II, had explored a wreck full of marble sarcophagi, but they stopped salvage when they found that the coffins were not sculptured. Quest for Wreck Site Begins Encouraged by our Greek find, Professor Ward-Perkins suggested to Dr. Froelich Rain ey, director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, that exploration of the Gulf of Ta ranto should prove productive. My own specialty, as a research associate of the University Museum, has been locating and identifying ancient shipwrecks. I was lucky enough to find the fascinating wrecks at Cape Gelidonya and Yassi Ada that Dr. George Bass and I have described in four GEOGRAPHIC articles.* But I still yearned to discover a ship of the Roman era with enough wood preserved to provide the basis for accu rate reconstruction drawings. In the spring of 1964 Professor Rainey sent me to Taranto to search for the abandoned sarcophagus wreck. There I was joined by redheaded John M. Bullitt, a professor of Eng lish at Harvard. As a summertime diver John had worked with me on the Methoni wreck. An old Volkswagen bus, a compressor, and Aqua-Lungs comprised our equipment. The director of the Taranto museum, Pro fessor Attilio Stazio, reminded us that the *See in the GEOGRAPHIC: "Thirty-three Centuries Un der the Sea," May 1960, and "Oldest Known Shipwreck Yields Bronze Age Cargo," May 1962, both by Mr. Throck morton; and "Underwater Archeology: Key to History's Warehouse," July 1963, and "New Tools for Undersea Archeology," September 1968, by Dr. George F. Bass. original finders had all died, and no one remembered the wreck's location. Some fish ermen believed it was near a place called Torre dell'Ovo-locally translated as "tower of the sheep." John and I drove along the flat coast to Torre dell'Ovo, a 16th-century watchtower built in Apulia to protect the coast against Barbary pirates. Last used as a radar post during World War II, the tower was now abandoned to rats and passing vandals.