Sicilians in ancient Salcombe



                                           Sicilians in ancient Salcombe

By Norman Hammond,
Archaeology Correspondent
AN ANCIENT bronze found on the seabed off Devon may be the first clear evidence of long-distance maritime trade between the central Mediterranean and the Channel coast.

Mike Pitts, the editor of British Archaeology, says that the curious object, of a type found otherwise only in Sicily, “is unique this far north, and raises the possibility, however remote, of a distant traveller reaching Britain from the Mediterranean”.

The bronze is one of 28 potential Bronze Age objects found recently off Salcombe, not far from the earlier Moor Sand finds which included post- medieval Moroccan gold coins and other historic material; both would seem to be from shipwrecks, although no ship remains have been found. The bronzes include 11 complete or fragmentary swords, five axes, three spearheads, and two gold ornaments, all dating to between 1300BC and 1150BC.

Most unusual is the piece which Italian archaeologists call a strumento con immanicatura a cannone — literally “an implement with cannon-shaped handle”, of uncertain function. The British Museum has several examples, and similar objects occur in some hoards in Sicily, where they date to about the 13th century BC.

“The Sicilian object from Salcombe is therefore the first secure object of Mediterranean origin and Bronze Age date to be found in northwest Europe,” Pitts notes. “The presence of this material on England’s south coast would appear to be tangible evidence of cross-Channel connections. Such connections have frequently been deduced from land finds, but are rarely attested directly.

“Interlocking maritime networks extended all along the Atlantic seaboard of Europe. There may not have been long-distance voyages spanning this whole chain, but this possibility will have to be reconsidered in the light of the Salcombe discovery, a rare chance to view objects in transit — the nearest that archaeology can get to witnessing trade in action.”

British Archaeology 91: 42-47.,,61-2451002,00.html


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