The Pantano Longarini shipwreck: a reanalysis



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A late antique shipwreck was excavated in the Pantano Longarini marsh in the southeastern corner of Sicily in the 1960s. Despite its excellent preservation, problematic circumstances surrounding its excavation and publication have resulted in scholars ignoring or misinterpreting it. The majority of the data, including original field notes and documentation, are lost, and the drawings, plans, and photographs that remain are sometimes inconsistent and incomplete. My research reanalyzes the remains of this ship to determine how the Sicilians adapted to their marine and economic conditions within the turbulent socio-economic and political climate of late antiquity. The Pantano Longarini shipwreck demonstrates early stages in a shift from the tradition of plank-based construction to the modern system of reliance on an internal framework for structural support. Contemporary wrecks provide parallels, but unique elements distinguish this ship from those typically studied. Extremely thick timbers, a relatively flat bottom and bow and stern ramps argue that the Pantano Longarini ship was designed to carry bulk loads. Although the ship was originally reported as an extremely advanced ship, the present analysis points to a different type of watercraft: a coastal barge. Correctly identifying the Pantano Longarini ship allows us to gather information about the needs of its builders, as well as extends our knowledge of shipping and ship construction in the seventh century.