The research campaign in the Bou Ferrer shipwreck sets with great precision the sleeve of the ship and its sinking date

The works of last campaign of excavation in the Bou Ferrer shiwreck have allowed to delimit with great precision the sleeve of the ship and its sinking date. This new underwater archaeological excavation campaign at the Bou Ferrer wreck, located twenty-six meters deep and only 1 kilometer away from the coast of Villajoyosa in Alicante, was developed last September.
The intervention has been promoted and financed by the General Directorate of Culture and Heritage of the Generalitat Valenciana, within the Annual Program of Archaeological Activities, coordinated by the University of Alicante and has also received funding from the Municipality of Vila Joiosa, as well as the patronage of three Norwegian residents, Ole Jørgen Wirum, Jesper Holte and Morten Jacobsen (also a volunteer from Vilamuseu, and promoter of Norwegian patronage), and of the British volunteer and patron of Vilamuseu, Elaine Evans, in addition to the financial contributions of the divers who have participated in the guided tours.
The studies of the epigraphy of lead ingots have allowed to establish a date before 68 d. C. for the shipwreck, that is, before the end of the reign of Nero, who committed suicide on June 9 of that year. On the other hand, the study of some coins appeared in 2017, made by Tomás Hurtado, has just revealed that the sinking happened after their coinage in 66 AD. Between these two dates, and taking into account that the navigation was carried out preferably in the months of the so-called mare apertum ("open sea", from April to October), we know the date of the sinking of the ship with an extraordinary accuracy, with a margin of only two years: those after April of the year 66. This fact is of great relevance because, as a time capsule, the Bou Ferrer will allow to date very precisely all the archaeological materials of the end of the Julio Claudia dynasty analogues to these, which will help globally to the dates of many other sites of the Roman Empire.
The works have been able to trace an initial hypothesis of the cross section of the ship that reflects its flat bottom and rounded bilge forms. It is a hypothesis based on the study and combination of the archaeological drawings of the plant and section of the naval architecture that appeared in the excavation trench that transversely crosses the wreck. In the sections the co-director, Carlos de Juan, has corrected by computer the deformations of the almost 2000 years that the wood lies at the bottom of the sea and several of them have been combined, using the keel as axis of symmetry.
On the other hand, our metric system has been abandoned in the measurements, to work with the Roman. This has allowed to restitute the maximum width of the ship in exactly 40 feet (11.82 m), which is a very important fact, explained De Juan. Theoretically one could consider for this sleeve a length of 100 feet (29.57 m), although we have to wait for future campaigns to confirm it.
In the N area of ​​the wreck, there has also been made a sampling excavation, in which a set of diverse materials related to the food of the crew has appeared almost two meters deep inside the substrate. Possibly it is a storage area or kitchen located in the stern of the ship. Its study will help to know the route that used to draw the ship, as well as other issues, from the possible number of sailors on board to even hierarchical relations in the micro society that represents a large vessel of the characteristics of Bou Ferrer.
To face a challenge of these dimensions, the collaboration of several experts and different institutions that have decided to join efforts and knowledge to carry out the project has been decisive. The University of Alicante, through the University Institute for Research in Archeology and Heritage and its General Foundation, participates in the project with its archaeologists and technicians in heritage documentation, support vessels and underwater equipment. The Villajoyosa City Council, through Vilamuseu, provides its facilities, archaeologists and restorers to support the treatment of all materials extracted from the seabed. The Marina of  Villajoyosa is responsible for providing the project with all the necessary nautical infrastructures with the support of its crew.
As in 2017, the collaboration of the Centre d'Arqueologia Subacuàtica de Catalunya (CASC), that belongs to the Museu d'Arqueologia de Catalunya, Direcció General d'Arxius, Biblioteques, Museus i Patrimoni of the Department de Cultura of Catalonia, has also been crucial. The Generalitat de Catalunya has participated for the second consecutive campaign with its research vessel Thetis and a team of four underwater archaeologists and a restorer. This infrastructure is equipped with the necessary means for underwater archaeological intervention and is allowing a great advance in research and in the fulfillment of scientific objectives.
Parallel to the research, in the months of August and September, the sixth campaign of guided visits for sport divers took place, a pioneering experience in Spain, which this year enjoyed a total of 114 divers from all over Spain, France, Belgium, England and Chile.
Reporters from the following institutions and Spanish media also visited the wreck in 2018: À Punt, Cuatro TV, Tele-Cinco, Diario Información, La Razón, La Marina Plaza, Valencian Tourism Chair, Valencian Tourism Agency, Cadena SER and ABC. Also visited the site to publish reports the main diving magazines in the world, such as Tauchen in Germany or Diver in the United Kingdom.
The Bou Ferrer underwater archaeological site is the wreck of a large Roman merchant from the Imperial high period that carried a main load of amphorae, which contained fish sauces, Dressel type 7-11. It also carried a secondary cargo of lead ingots with the Emperor's property marks. During a trip from the current Cádiz to Rome he left his route on the high seas, probably a victim of opposite winds or a storm, and sank when it was about to reach the beach of the port city of Allon (La Vila Joiosa), where it could have saved the cargo and maybe the own ship.
Since its discovery for science, in 1999, several archaeological interventions have been carried out funded by the Conselleria of Education, Research, Culture and Sports of the Generalitat Valenciana. In 2014 it was declared Bien de Interés Cultural and in 2017 UNESCO included it in its World Register of Good Practices in Underwater Archeology.