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Iron Bar Trade between the Mediterranean and Gaul in the Roman Period: 14C Dating of Products from Shipwrecks Discovered off the Coast of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (Bouches-du-Rhône, France)

  • Emmanuelle Delqué-Količ (a1), Stéphanie Leroy (a2), Gaspard Pagès (a3) and Julie Leboyer (a4)
Abstract
Abstract

The large number of iron-laden wrecked ships discovered off Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (south of France) since the 1990s has enriched our knowledge of both maritime trade in the Mediterranean and the ferrous bars used during antiquity. This exceptional corpus has spawned numerous studies in the fields of archaeology, history, and archaeometallurgy, but, despite a relatively well-documented context, the chronology of wrecks is still to be clarified. Until recently, the chronology of the corpus was mainly supported by the archaeological remains found in the cargo of the wrecks, resulting in a chronological range from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD. However, the 14C dating of an iron bar from Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, older by more than a century from the expected chronological range, has revived discussions about the chronology of all the wrecks. Thanks to the development of a new protocol for dating ferrous alloys, based on an extensive study of the ferrous material, 34 samples of iron extracted from 13 ferrous bars constituting the cargo of seven ships could be 14C dated. The 14C results and the archaeological and historical data were subjected to Bayesian analysis to build a chronological framework for the antique shipwrecks of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. It appears that all these ships could belong to a larger phase than the one deduced from archaeological remains alone. Consequently, this study helps to support a new vision of the trade between the northeastern Mediterranean and western Europe.

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*Corresponding author. Email: emmanuelle.delque-kolic@cea.fr.
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Selected Papers from the 2015 Radiocarbon Conference, Dakar, Senegal, 16–20 November 2015

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