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The underwater remains of a ship lost in battle more than 2,000 years ago off the coast of Sicily is now teeming with marine life.

Italian researchers found 114 marine animal species coexisting on remains of the warship that sunk during a fight between the Romans and Carthaginians.

The trove of life includes different types of snails, slugs, mollusks, worms and underwater moss creatures, all of which are located on the ram of the sunken a Carthaginian ship.

The ship sank on March 10, 241 BC during a sea battle near the Aegadian Islands off northwestern Sicily.

A fleet equipped by the Roman Republic destroyed a fleet from Carthage, ending the First Punic War in Rome’s favor – but the carnage made has now produced ‘a rich flowering of marine life.’ 

The underwater remains of a ship lost in battle more than 2,000 years ago off the coast of Sicily is now teeming with marine life

The underwater remains of a ship lost in battle more than 2,000 years ago off the coast of Sicily is now teeming with marine life

The ram, nicknamed ‘Egadi 13’, was recovered in 2017 from the seabed around 295 feet deep by marine archeologists from the Soprintendenza del Mare della Regione Sicilia, directed by Dr Sebastiano Tusa, in collaboration with divers from the organization Global Underwater Explorers.

But a recent analysis revealed the marine life thriving on the ancient ship remains.

Last author Dr Sandra Ricci, a senior researcher at Rome’s ‘Istituto Centrale per il Restauro’ (ICR), said in a statement: ‘Shipwrecks are often studied to follow colonization by marine organisms, but few studies have focused on ships that sank more than a century ago.’ 

Ricci and colleagues found a species-rich community, structurally and spatially complex, with 114 living invertebrate species. 

The ram is a little more than two feet long, about one inch thick at the front edge and weighs nearly 375 pounds. And because the ram is hollow, it has accumulated organisms and sediments inside as well as outside

The ram is a little more than two feet long, about one inch thick at the front edge and weighs nearly 375 pounds. And because the ram is hollow, it has accumulated organisms and sediments inside as well as outside

Italian researchers found 114 marine animal species coexisting on remains of the warship that sunk during a fight between the Romans and Carthaginians

Italian researchers found 114 marine animal species coexisting on remains of the warship that sunk during a fight between the Romans and Carthaginians

THE FIRST PUNIC WAR 

The First Punic War was the first of three wars fought between the Phoenicians of Carthage and Rome in the early third century BC.

The longest naval war of antiquity, the conflict raged from 264–241 BC in the waters around Sicily and North Africa.

It began when Roman forces gained a foothold on Sicily and, allied with the people of Syracuse, laid siege to the Carthaginian’s main base on the island, that of Akragas. 

Following this, Rome built a navy to rival that of the Phoenicians’ and, after a series of minor victories, launched an invasion of North Africa which was intercepted at the Battle of Cape Ecnomus — in what many consider, by the number of combatants, to be the largest naval battle of all time.

Beaten, Carthage sued for peace, but fought on after rejecting the Roman’s harsh terms for such.

After several years of effective stalemate, the Roman forces deployed a successful blockade of the garrisons at Drepana and Lilybaeum.

Carthage dispatched a fleet in 241 BC to relieve their outposts, but this was intercepted and bested at the Battle of the Aegates — in which the nimble Roman vessels deployed battering rams against their opponents to devastating effect. 

In the wake of the battle, Carthage sued for peace, ultimately surrendering Sicily to Roman control. 

These included 33 species of gastropods, 25 species of bivalves, 33 species of polychaete worms, and 23 species of bryozoans.  

Coauthor Dr Edoardo Casoli from Rome’s Sapienza University, said in a statement: ‘We deduce that the primary ‘constructors’ in this community are organisms such as polychaetes, bryozoans, and a few species of bivalves. Their tubes, valves, and colonies attach themselves directly to the wreck’s surface.’

‘Other species, especially bryozoans, act as ‘binders’: their colonies form bridges between the calcareous structures produced by the constructors. Then there are ‘dwellers’, which aren’t attached but move freely between cavities in the superstructure. What we don’t yet know exactly is the order in which these organisms colonize wrecks.’

Corresponding author Dr Maria Flavia Gravina concluded: ‘Younger shipwrecks typically host a less diverse community than their environment, with mainly species with a long larval stage which can disperse far. 

‘By comparison, our ram is much more representative of the natural habitat: it hosted a diverse community, including species with long and short larval stages, with sexual and asexual reproduction, and with sessile and motile adults, who live in colonies or solitary. 

‘We have thus shown that very old shipwrecks such as our ram can act as a novel kind of sampling tool for scientists, which effectively act as a ‘ecological memory’ of colonization.’

Egadi 13 is constructed out of a single, hallow piece of bronze and is engraved with an undeciphered Punic inscription – the ancient language of Carthaginians that was only found in the Mediterranean. 

The ram is a little more than two feet long, about one inch thick at the front edge and weighs nearly 375 pounds.

And because the ram is hollow, it has accumulated organisms and sediments inside as well as outside. 

The Romans and Carthaginians went to war in in 264 BC in what is called the First Punic War.

The civilizations battled for control of the western Mediterranean Sea. 

The ship sank on March 10, 241 BC during a sea battle near the Aegadian Islands off northwestern Sicily

The ship sank on March 10, 241 BC during a sea battle near the Aegadian Islands off northwestern Sicily

These included 33 species of gastropods, 25 species of bivalves, 33 species of polychaete worms, and 23 species of bryozoans

These included 33 species of gastropods, 25 species of bivalves, 33 species of polychaete worms, and 23 species of bryozoans

The war on March 10 was called the Battle of Aegusa, which saw the Roman fleet sink 50 Carthaginian ships that led to the  end of the First Punic War.

Accounts also say the Romans captured 70 more ships, although at the cost of 30 of their own ships and damage to 50 more. 

It is thought that the fleets of both sides originally numbered some 200 vessels. 

Rome became the dominant navy in the Mediterranean Sea, forcing Carthage to pay for war damages, and Rome took control of all of the Carthaginian lands on the island of Sicily.

THE CARTHAGINANS 

Pictured: the location of Cartage, with the extent of the Carthaginian Empire in blue

Pictured: the location of Cartage, with the extent of the Carthaginian Empire in blue

Ancient Carthage was a Phoenician civilization centered around Carthage, on the Gulf of Tunis, which founded by colonists from Tyre in 814 BC.

At its height during the fourth century BC, the city-state became the largest metropolis in world, with an empire that dominated the western Mediterranean. 

It had a mercantile network that extended from north Europe down to west Africa and across to west Asia.

Far less is known about Carthage’s peoples than those of ancient Rome or Greece, as most indigenous records were destroyed — along with the city — following the Third Punic War in 146 BC.

Their victory in this conflict paved the way for the Roman civilization to become the dominant power in the Mediterranean. 


Archaeologists working on HS2 have shed light on how an Iron Age village in Northamptonshire was transformed into a wealthy Roman trading town bustling with traffic almost 2,000 years ago. 

Stunning discoveries made during a dig of the site near the village of Chipping Warden – known as Blackgrounds after the black soil found there – include cremation urns, gaming pieces, shackles, a snake-head brooch and more than 300 Roman coins. 

Evidence suggests the settlement was established in about 400 BC when it was made up of more than 30 roundhouses, but that it greatly expanded during the Roman era around 300-400 AD, with new stone buildings and roads. 

A team of around 80 archaeologists working on the HS2 high-speed rail project have spent 12 months excavating Blackgrounds, which is one of more than 100 sites to have been examined between London and Birmingham since 2018.

Experts say the remains of the Roman trading town mark ‘one of the most significant archaeological sites’ uncovered during the controversial £100 billion train line project. 

Before HS2 workers build bridges, tunnels, tracks and stations, an ‘unprecedented’ amount of archaeological work is taking place along the line of route, to ensure concrete isn’t dumped over the secrets of Britain’s past. 

This excavation work offers a ‘unique opportunity’ to tell the story of Britain, according to HS2 Ltd, the state-funded body responsible for delivering the line, although so far its construction been hugely controversial for its destruction of historic buildings and nature spots. 

Walls of domestic building are pictured here uncovered during the excavation at the Blackgrounds Roman archaeological site. Archaeologists working for HS2 Ltd have uncovered one of the most significant archaeological sites on the project to date near a small village in South Northamptonshire

Walls of domestic building are pictured here uncovered during the excavation at the Blackgrounds Roman archaeological site. Archaeologists working for HS2 Ltd have uncovered one of the most significant archaeological sites on the project to date near a small village in South Northamptonshire

Pictured is remains of a Roman wall at the Blackgrounds site. Evidence suggests the settlement was established in about 400 BC - during the Iron Age

Pictured is remains of a Roman wall at the Blackgrounds site. Evidence suggests the settlement was established in about 400 BC – during the Iron Age

Photo issued by HS2 shows a Roman lead die (left) and bone gaming pieces uncovered during the archaeology excavation at Blackgrounds

Photo issued by HS2 shows a Roman lead die (left) and bone gaming pieces uncovered during the archaeology excavation at Blackgrounds

Pictured is decorative Roman pottery uncovered at the site. A team of around 80 HS2 archaeologists have spent 12 months excavating the site

Pictured is decorative Roman pottery uncovered at the site. A team of around 80 HS2 archaeologists have spent 12 months excavating the site

Roman coins. More than 300 Roman coins have been found at the site, which is just north of the village of Chipping Warden, Northamptonshire

Roman coins. More than 300 Roman coins have been found at the site, which is just north of the village of Chipping Warden, Northamptonshire

This photo issued by HS2 shows a Roman female deity scale weight uncovered during the archaeology excavation at Blackgrounds, so-called for the black soil found there

This photo issued by HS2 shows a Roman female deity scale weight uncovered during the archaeology excavation at Blackgrounds, so-called for the black soil found there 

Roman cremation urns still covered in soil. The Iron Age village developed into a wealthy Roman trading town, according to archaeologists

Roman cremation urns still covered in soil. The Iron Age village developed into a wealthy Roman trading town, according to archaeologists 

Pictured is a decorative Roman snake-head brooch with intricately carved details. Experts were left stunned when they came across evidence of the Iron Age settlement

Pictured is a decorative Roman snake-head brooch with intricately carved details. Experts were left stunned when they came across evidence of the Iron Age settlement 

Chipping Warden is a village in Northamptonshire, England. The upcoming HS2 route will pass to the northeast of the village

Chipping Warden is a village in Northamptonshire, England. The upcoming HS2 route will pass to the northeast of the village

TIMELINE OF THE SITE 

· 800BC: The Iron Age begins

· 400BC: Iron Age village established at Blackgrounds

· AD43: The Romans invade Britain, led by Emperor Claudius.

· AD50: Roman settlement established.

· AD300-400: The settlement expands to where current excavations are taking place

· AD410: The Roman Empire begins to crumble and the settlement at Blackgrounds declines

 

The presence of such a significant archaeological site in the area has been known since the 18th century, but recent geophysical surveys have revealed the original Iron Age part of the site and the artefacts from the Roman settlement. 

Site manager James West, from the Museum of London Archaeology Headland Infrastructure, which has been excavating the site, said the dig had ‘surpassed all expectations’. 

‘This is certainly one of the most impressive sites MOLA Headland Infrastructure has discovered whilst working on the HS2 scheme,’ West said. 

‘A particular highlight for me has been understanding the emerging story of Blackgrounds, which we now know spans multiple time periods.

‘Uncovering such a well-preserved and large Roman road, as well as so many high quality finds, has been extraordinary and tells us so much about the people who lived here.

‘The site really does have the potential to transform our understanding of the Roman landscape in the region and beyond.’ 

Running through the site is a Roman road measuring 32 feet or 10 metres wide, which is huge by typical Roman standards – most Roman roads were around 13 feet (4 metres).  

Another image of the Roman lead die surrounded by bone gaming pieces uncovered during the HS2 archaeology excavation

Another image of the Roman lead die surrounded by bone gaming pieces uncovered during the HS2 archaeology excavation

Pictured are Roman weaving accessories. There are a number of archaeological sites being explored across Northamptonshire, including Blackgrounds, Edgcote battleground and a deserted medieval village at Radstone

Pictured are Roman weaving accessories. There are a number of archaeological sites being explored across Northamptonshire, including Blackgrounds, Edgcote battleground and a deserted medieval village at Radstone 

Photo issued by HS2 shows the numerous Roman artefacts, marked and stored in bags and plastic containers during excavation work

Photo issued by HS2 shows the numerous Roman artefacts, marked and stored in bags and plastic containers during excavation work

A lead weight, cast into the shape of a head, which was unearthed on the HS2 route, at MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) on January 10, 2022 in Northamptonshire

A lead weight, cast into the shape of a head, which was unearthed on the HS2 route, at MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) on January 10, 2022 in Northamptonshire

Environmental Processor and Analyser Donna Brady examines dried samples of animal bone and charcoal from the HS2 route

Environmental Processor and Analyser Donna Brady examines dried samples of animal bone and charcoal from the HS2 route

MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) programmes manager Claire holds a lead weight, cast into the shape of a head, which was unearthed on the HS2 route

MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) programmes manager Claire holds a lead weight, cast into the shape of a head, which was unearthed on the HS2 route

Finds and environmental Processor Rob Pearce cleans and separates the contents of the sample buckets taken from the route, in a series of Siraf tanks

Finds and environmental Processor Rob Pearce cleans and separates the contents of the sample buckets taken from the route, in a series of Siraf tanks

MOLA's Clare Finn explains the drying process needed for the trays of samples from the HS2 route. Artefacts were discovered by archaeologists working for HS2, the high-speed rail project, at the Blackgrounds Roman-era trading settlement

MOLA’s Clare Finn explains the drying process needed for the trays of samples from the HS2 route. Artefacts were discovered by archaeologists working for HS2, the high-speed rail project, at the Blackgrounds Roman-era trading settlement

Urbs Roma coin from the reign of Emperor Constantine, showing the depiction of Romulus and Remus and commemorating the founding of Rome

Urbs Roma coin from the reign of Emperor Constantine, showing the depiction of Romulus and Remus and commemorating the founding of Rome

A Roman pot held by one of the site's workers. The original use of Blackgrounds began in the Iron Age when it was a village formed of over 30 roundhouses

A Roman pot held by one of the site’s workers. The original use of Blackgrounds began in the Iron Age when it was a village formed of over 30 roundhouses

WHY IS HS2 CONTROVERSIAL? 

HS2, which is estimated to cost more than £100 billion , aims to provide a high-speed rail service linking London and northern England. 

But according to Wildlife Trusts, construction of HS2 is resulting in the loss of ancient woodlands, nature reserves, wildlife refuges and more. The charity calls HS2 ‘a grave threat to the UK’s ancient woods, with 108 at risk of loss or damage’. 

Critics question whether HS2 is worth its ballooning price tag especially after a pandemic that might permanently change people’s travel habits.

The first phase linking London and Birmingham is due to open between 2029 and 2033, according to HS2 Ltd.   

The width indicates that the settlement would have been very busy with carts simultaneously coming and going to load and unload goods – a ‘very active area’. 

The wealth of the settlement is likely to have been based on trade, both from the nearby River Cherwell and via the Roman road. 

The discovery of over 300 Roman coins is an indication that a significant volume of commerce was passing through this area as the village developed into a wealthy town.  

The archaeologists also found the settlement divided into domestic and industrial areas, with evidence of workshops, kilns and well-preserved wells.

In one part of the site, the earth is bright red, suggesting the area would have been used for activities involving burning, such as bread-making, foundries for metal work or a kiln.

Other artefacts found during the dig highlighted the wealth of the inhabitants, such as glass vessels, highly decorative pottery, jewellery and even traces of the mineral galena – a substance that was crushed and mixed with oil to be used as make-up.

A particularly interesting discovery in the dig has been half a set of shackles, similar to those recently found at an excavation in Rutland. 

Unlike those uncovered in Rutland, the shackles found at Blackgrounds are not associated with a burial but may suggest the presence of either criminal activity or slave labour. 

Roman shackles (pictured) were also discovered, suggesting that criminal activity or slave labour were part of the settlement

Roman shackles (pictured) were also discovered, suggesting that criminal activity or slave labour were part of the settlement 

Unspecified decorative Roman artefacts. The history of Blackgrounds began in the Iron Age when it was a village formed of over 30 roundhouses

Unspecified decorative Roman artefacts. The history of Blackgrounds began in the Iron Age when it was a village formed of over 30 roundhouses

A Pewter plate. In one part of the site, the earth is bright red, suggesting the area would have been used for activities involving burning, such as bread-making, foundries for metal work or a kiln

A Pewter plate. In one part of the site, the earth is bright red, suggesting the area would have been used for activities involving burning, such as bread-making, foundries for metal work or a kiln

The Blackgrounds site has undergone a geophysical survey by a team of archaeologists and has been further evaluated through trial trenches which are small slip trenches

The Blackgrounds site has undergone a geophysical survey by a team of archaeologists and has been further evaluated through trial trenches which are small slip trenches

Blackgrounds consists of the Iron Age settlement, which was unknown until experts conducted geophysical surveys, and the Roman settlement. 

Researchers had wanted to establish whether the Iron Age site and Roman site existed independently of each other, or if the Iron Age settlement continued to exist into the Roman period.

Evidence suggests the latter, with the Iron Age settlement acting as a starting point for Roman operations to greatly ramp up. 

‘The opportunity to carefully examine a site such as Blackgrounds, and map out a long history of the site, brought to life through artefacts, building remains and roads, has enabled us to provide a more in-depth understanding of what life was like in rural south Northamptonshire in the Iron and Roman Age,’ said Mike Court, lead archaeologist for HS2. 

The history of the site, from the Iron Age to the Roman era, features in the new BBC Digging for Britain series, hosted by Professor Alice Roberts.

The episode featuring the Blackgrounds dig will air on BBC Two today, January 11, at 8pm.  

Before HS2 workers build bridges, tunnels, tracks and stations, an unprecedented amount of archaeological work is taking place along the line of route

Before HS2 workers build bridges, tunnels, tracks and stations, an unprecedented amount of archaeological work is taking place along the line of route

A discovered well at the Blackgrounds Roman archaeological site. Archaeologists working for HS2 Ltd have uncovered one of the most significant archaeological sites on the project to date

A discovered well at the Blackgrounds Roman archaeological site. Archaeologists working for HS2 Ltd have uncovered one of the most significant archaeological sites on the project to date

The layout suggests the town was split into different areas, with foundations uncovered of buildings used for domestic purposes and more industrial practices

The layout suggests the town was split into different areas, with foundations uncovered of buildings used for domestic purposes and more industrial practices

Excavation work along the HS2 route offers a unique opportunity to tell the story of Britain, according to HS2 Ltd, the state-funded body responsible for delivering the line, although it's been controversial for ripping up historic buildings and nature spots

Excavation work along the HS2 route offers a unique opportunity to tell the story of Britain, according to HS2 Ltd, the state-funded body responsible for delivering the line, although it’s been controversial for ripping up historic buildings and nature spots

An aerial view of the well discovered at the Blackgrounds Roman archaeological site. The archaeologists found the settlement divided into domestic and industrial areas, with evidence of workshops, kilns and well-preserved wells.

An aerial view of the well discovered at the Blackgrounds Roman archaeological site. The archaeologists found the settlement divided into domestic and industrial areas, with evidence of workshops, kilns and well-preserved wells.

The history of the site, from the Iron Age to the Roman era, features in the new BBC Digging for Britain series, hosted by Professor Alice Roberts

The history of the site, from the Iron Age to the Roman era, features in the new BBC Digging for Britain series, hosted by Professor Alice Roberts

Blackgrounds is one of over 100 archaeological sites that HS2 has examined since 2018 between London and Birmingham, which combined provide a detailed insight into the rich history of Britain

Blackgrounds is one of over 100 archaeological sites that HS2 has examined since 2018 between London and Birmingham, which combined provide a detailed insight into the rich history of Britain

The removed artefacts are being cleaned and analysed by specialists from MOLA Headland Infrastructure and the details of the buildings and layout of the settlement are being carefully mapped

The removed artefacts are being cleaned and analysed by specialists from MOLA Headland Infrastructure and the details of the buildings and layout of the settlement are being carefully mapped

Roman Wall showing signs of subsidence - when the ground beneath a building sinks, pulling the property's foundations down with it

Roman Wall showing signs of subsidence – when the ground beneath a building sinks, pulling the property’s foundations down with it

Pictured is site manager James West, from the Museum of London Archaeology Headland Infrastructure, with the Roman well

Pictured is site manager James West, from the Museum of London Archaeology Headland Infrastructure, with the Roman well

HS2 COSTS SOARED ANOTHER £1.7 BILLION IN PAST YEAR DUE TO COVID – WITH TOTAL BUDGET SWELLING TO £106 BILLION 

The cost of the controversial HS2 high-speed rail project has increased by a further £1.7billion over the past year due to social distancing measures and work suspensions caused by the pandemic.

Coronavirus and lockdown restrictions first imposed in March last year disrupted work at most HS2 sites, causing further delays which have put even more strain on the UK’s biggest infrastructure project.

Similar pressures have been reported by industry experts in projects ranging from Crossrail and the A303 Stonehenge tunnel to the Tideway tunnel and the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset.

As a result of work suspensions, social distancing measures, and reduced productivity over this year, costs have soared by around £1.7billion – another increase on the project’s estimated £106billion budget.

Opposition to the project is mounting, with local anger contributing to the Tory by-election defeat in Chesham and Amersham. The new line is due to run through the Buckinghamshire constituency. 

The costs associated with Phase 1 of the line between London and Birmingham have increased by as much as £800million, people close to the project told the FT. 

That increase follows an £800million rise announced by HS2 in October, including money spent on remediating the terminus site at Euston in London. 

The price of the Birmingham Interchange station also rose by £100million to £370million even before contractors have been appointed.  

One contractor close to the project said that HS2 Ltd, the state-funded body responsible for delivering the line, ‘doesn’t really know how much Covid has added’. HS2 Ltd declined to comment when approached by MailOnline.  

Construction started on Phase 1 of the London to Birmingham line in August last year after more than a decade of planning. But the ballooning costs could add to Treasury fears that HS2 will be a black hole for taxpayers. 

The Department for Transport conceded to MailOnline that there had been ‘unavoidable costs’ arising from the coronavirus pandemic.