From Here to There in the First Century B.C.E.: Identifying Passengers and Crew from Shipwrecked Remains (20 min)


Carrie Atkins, University of Toronto


Sometime around 60 B.C.E., a woman boarded a large ship in the harbor at Ephesus (or possibly Elaia). While en route most likely to Puteoli, the ship sank at Antikythera, preserving the skeletal remains of the woman and at least four other individuals in addition to potential personal items, such as gold rings, elaborate gold earrings, a gem from a necklace, bone flutes, game pieces, a glass paste pendant, and knucklebone amulets. Although prior scholarship has shown that people would have arranged for passage on merchant ships, little attention has been given to collectively studying shipwrecks to understand what passengers or crew brought aboard and broader patterns in mobility. Here, I examine the assemblages of 15 first-century B.C.E. shipwrecks using network analysis to identify personal items and reconstruct the identity of individuals aboard. Based on the copresence and enchained networks of objects, I suggest that some items, like bone pendants from the Spargi shipwreck, were being transported likely as cargo rather than as personal items. In addition, aspects of individual identities can be ascertained, such as the sex of the women aboard two shipwrecks as known by their skeletal remains or the profession of the medical practitioners aboard three shipwrecks as known by their instruments. Finally, the evidence emphasizes long-distance travel in the first century B.C.E. with the women traveling from the eastern Mediterranean to Italy, and one of the medical practitioners from Italy to Hispania. The jewelry, figurines, instruments, amulets, and clothing found in these wrecks attest to the entangled networks of people and goods coming together for a brief moment aboard the ship as they move around the Mediterranean and allow a glimpse at those who otherwise often remain hidden in antiquity.