The Madrague de Giens Wreck

The Madrague de Giens wreck is one of the major milestones of nautical archaeology. 

For ten years (from 1972 to 1982) a team of maritime archaeologists began what constituted the first large scale, truly scientific, underwater excavation carried out in France. Situated on the Giens peninsula on the southern Mediterranean coast of France, the excavation soon revealed what seems to be the remains of a large merchantman sunk around 70-45 BCE. Eleven campaigns were then necessary to fully document the extensive remains (35,10 m in length, 9m in width) of this exceptional wreck. Interpreted as a large merchantman of considerable tonnage - 400 tons deadweight - the ship sunk, for an unknown reason, while transporting a large cargo of wine and black glazed pottery from Italy. It’s worth it to say that the archaeological investigations of Madrague de Giens are also notable for first utilizing a number of archaeological techniques still used in underwater excavation such as stereoscopic photographic recording, an ancestor of the current photogrammetric process. 

The objective of the grant is to complete the studies of both the architecture of the ship and the composition of the cargo in order to purpose a final publication of this unique site. A preliminary report (A. Tchernia, P. Pomey, A. Hesnard et al., L'épave romaine de la Madrague de Giens (Var), XXXIVe supplément à Gallia, Paris, 1978), mainly focusing on the center part of the wreck, was published in 1978, followed by isolated articles and publications, but no synthetic monographs have been published since the end of the field work in 1982. Today, in order to refine our documentation, our grant proposed to make a new photogrammetric calculation based on the set of stereoscopic photographs took between 1972 and 1982. At the same time, the resumption of the study materials will help us to define the precise composition of the cargo (quantification and typological identification) and to distinguish it from the crew artefacts. Finally, this new study of the shipwreck, 40 years after the first publication, will help us to precisely identify the exact moment of the sinking.

The publication project is directed by Dr. Pierre Poveda and Dr. Laëtitia Cavassa.

Photo 2: Detail of the cargo during the 1982 excavation (credits: G. Reveillac, CCJ, AMU-CNRS)
Photo 3: View of the site during the 1975 excavation. The amphora has been removed from the central part of the bilge in order to proceed with the architectural study (credits: A. Chéné, CCJ, AMU-CNRS)