A Catalog of Armament from Ancient Mediterranean Shipwrecks, 14th-1st Centuries BCE
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The Mediterranean World is no stranger to naval conflict. In ancient Egypt, Pharaoh Rameses III fought the “Sea Peoples” as they attacked his kingdom and others in the Eastern Mediterranean ca. 1175 B.C.E. Galleys with marines were depicted in art from Bronze Age Crete and warships were shown on Greek pottery as early as The Late Helladic IIIC (c. 1190 – 1060 B.C.E) In the Archaic (c. 650 – 480 B.C.E) and Classical (c. 480 – 330 B.C.E.) periods, the ancient Greeks engaged in massive naval actions against the Persians and amongst themselves. During the Hellenistic period, the Diadochi (“successor kings”) amassed massive war fleets with gargantuan capital ships as their vied for dominance over the remnants of Alexander the Great’s short-lived empire. During Rome’s formative years, the Romans engaged in some of the largest battles ever recorded in their wars against Carthage. However, despite this extensive history of naval conflict in the Mediterranean stretching back to the Bronze Age, the evidence for weapons at maritime sites is sparser than might be expected. While this can in part be attributed to the relative infrequency of shipwreck sites compared to terrestrial ones, it is still a lamentable situation. To compound the scarcity of military finds, wreck sites are overwhelmingly merchant in nature and warships are essentially nonexistent in the archaeological record. However, this is not to say weapons are on unheard of on shipwreck sites. Perhaps due to this relative infrequency, no one has – as of yet – developed a detailed catalog of arms and armor discovered at ancient maritime contexts in the Mediterranean from the Bronze Age to the beginning of the Common Era. It is the aim of this thesis to do precisely that. This catalog will be compared to the literary evidence for the use of weapons and armor at sea.
Tisdale, Dhillon Ross (2021). A Catalog of Armament from Ancient Mediterranean Shipwrecks, 14th-1st Centuries BCE. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from