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The Unsinkable Titanic, the sad ending of a fairytale

The shipwreck of the Titanic

Today marks the anniversary of one of the most dramatic events in the history of maritime navigation: the shipwreck of the Titanic, known as “the ship of dreams”.
The RMS Titanic was a British transatlantic of the Olympic class which, shortly after the start of its voyage, sank on April 15th, 1912, after colliding with an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean. To this day, the wreck is still being studied.

The Titanic

The beginning of the voyage

In 1908, at the Harland and Woolf shipyards in Belfast, the entrepreneurs J. Bruce Ismay and W. James Pirrie financed a project which involved the construction of massive vessels that could face any type of sea voyage and demonstrate how much naval technology had progressed. The project included the making of three sister ships: the Olympic, the Titanic and the Gigantic.
The Titanic was launched in May 1911 and a year later, its memorable voyage began.
On 11 April 1912, the ship sailed from the port of Southampton, England, with lots of passengers on board, including Irish emigrants looking for a better future in America.

The departure of the transatlantic

The iceberg

The first days of the trip were peaceful and the Titanic gave the impression of being the ship of dreams.
There was every kind of comfort onboard, and the passengers enjoyed a stunning view, it was like they were living in a fairytale.

However, the ship had some flaws. The transatlantic didn’t have adequate spyglasses while crossing the Atlantic Ocean at high speed, probably due to an excessive sense of human safety which is a frequent mistake during sea voyages.

On April 14th, 1912, at 23:40, the Titanic hit a massive iceberg that heavily damaged its right side.

The iceberg that caused the sinking of the Titanic (reconstrunction)

The end of a dream

Initially, what seemed to be a minor inconvenience was, eventually, the cause of the sinking of the Titanic.
The iceberg had struck a crucial spot of the vessel which began to fill with water, with critical consequences. Within a few hours the first five compartments were flooded: the forepeak, the mail-holder and the boiler.
The ship tilted so much that it broke in two parts; one of the two parts, the bow, sank immediately. Then, the stern initially straightened up but later plummeted. What was meant to be a trip in the ship of dreams turned out to be a nightmare that caused the death of most of the passengers on board.
Some vanished with the ship; others couldn’t face the low temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean; and others died waiting for the rescuers who arrived several hours after the sinking.

The sinking (reconstruction)

“Sacred Landscape Sicily”, a journey through history

The “Sacred Landscape Sicily” project

The In the footsteps of Early Christian Rural Communities (social: Fb – Sacred Landscape; IG – Sacred Landacape Sicily), financed by the Society for Church Archaeology and by the University of Leicester, is about to start. ArcheoMe decided to follow this activity of academic research in detail because of its uniqueness. In fact, it’s not just a pure documentary analysis, but rather a “journey through time”, a physical exploration of the territory in order to trace the mobility through central Siciliy among the first rural Christian communities of the island.

A moment of field survey


Living the sacred landscape

The explorarion of the sacred landscape in central Siciliy will focus on the areas of Enna, Caltanissetta, and Catania. This is not a random choice: several scientific studies show the existence of a rich and complex archeological landscape. The objective of the research is to identify the possible routes that, centuries ago, were followed by the early Christians. We’re talking about the rural communities that inhabited the region between the 4th and the 9th century AD, which have left rural churches, monuments and necropolis. For a better understanding of the travel dynamics of this ancient time, the exploration will be done on foot, but not without a little help: in fact, two donkeys, the main “vehicles” of the past, will be used to transport the equipment, thus giving the right pace to the research activity. The Sacred Landscape Sicily Project rewrites the pure academic research in a new, experimental form, an active study of the territory in which it is immersed.

Aerial view of the rural church of Philosophiana

The path between landscape and archeology

The Sacred Landscape Sicily exploration, which will be documented by ArcheoMe, is led by Dr Margherita Riso of the University of Leicester, Director and founder of the project and by co-directors Matteo Randazzo and Andrea Arena. This journey will allow us to discover an unknown sicilian landscape: an overlooked archeological horizon, yet of great importance and unspeakable beauty. ArcheoMe will follow the research group through the roman villas of Gerace, Rasalgone and Casale; between the sizeable rural village of Philosophiana and other settlements inhabited from the prehistory to the Middle Ages; along the road axis of Imperial Roman age that connected Catania to Agrigento. The research team will attempt, once again, to bring all these puzzle pieces together. Quoting Dr Riso’s words, the times and the challenges of the journey “will be experimented by our team within a cultural landscape that has become a genuine container of collective and individual memory”.

Dr. Margherita Riso


Before the first steps

It should be known that, behind an experimental investigation such as that of Sacred Landscape Sicily, there is an extended period of study and scientific preparation. What might look like a “lighthearted hike” is actually quite different. The possible courses that have been identified by the research group are not influenced by the modern morphology of the territory, but rather by the ones of the Early Middle Ages. In particular, the philological research and the field survey are accompanied by the GIS (Geographic Information System) digital elaborations. Thanks to this software, it is possible to map the main elements of the landscape, both archeological and environmental, in order to grasp the hypothetical paths of the ancient road networks. At this point, “human” feedback is necessary to validate (or invalidate) the range of possibilities offered by the computer analysis.

The research team taking a selfie

It is about time: on the 24th of September 2022, Sacred Landscape Sicily will move its first steps with a presentation conference which will be held in Piazza Armerina, the picturesque ennese town that houses the famous Villa Romana del Casale, ever since at the center of a systematic archeological research. The “Litterio Villari” archeological group, which has always supported the archeologists working in central Sicily, will also be present at the conference.

Logo of the Sacred Landscape Sicily project, which can be followed on Instagram and Facebook

For the italian version click here.


ENGLISH VERSION | A 3400 year-old city resurfaces on the Tigris

A team of german and kurd archaeologists discovered a 3400 year-old city which dates to the Mitanni age, located on the Tigris. The settlement re-emerged from the waters of the Mosul basin due to extreme drought in Iraq. The city, with its palace and large buildings, might be the ancient Zakhiku, an important centre of the Mitanni Empire (ca. 1550-1350 BC).


The reapparance

In december 2021, huge quantites of water were drained from the Mosul basin, the most important water supply of Iraq, in order to save the crops from the drought that afflicts the southern region of the country. This led to the reapparance of the city, which goes back to the Bronze Age and is situated in Kemune, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

This unexpected event put great pressure on the archeologists, who spontaneously organized to excavate and document as many parts as possible of the city before it was submerged again. In few days, with the financial support of the Frits Thyssen Foundation, a team led the rescue excavations in Kemune between January and February of 2022, with the help of the Directorate of Antiquity and Heritage in Duhok (Iraqi Kurdistan). Among the members of the team, there are Dr. Hasan Ahmed Qasim, chairman of the Kurdistan Archeological Organization, Dr. Ivana Puljiz of the Freiburg University and Prof. Dr. Peter Pfälzner of the Tübingen University.

Aerial view of the Kemune excavation
The Artifacts

In a short time, the researchers managed to map a large part of the city. In addition to a palace that was already documented during a short campaign in 2018, other large buildings were discovered, such as a massive fortification and a multi-storey storage building. The urban complex dates to the age of the Mitanni Empire (ca. 1550-1350 BC), which controlled large zones of Northern Mesopotamia and Syria.

The researchers were surprised by the excellent condition of the walls, despite the material (sun-dried mud bricks) and the submersion. This is due to the earthquake that destroyed the city in 1350 BC, in which the superior parts of the walls buried the buildings.

Large building walls, perhaps a storage building
Cuneiform Tablets

One of the most interesting findings are five ceramic vessels which contained an archive of more than 100 cuneiform tablets that date to the Middle Assyrian period. Some clay tablets, probably letters, are even preserved in their envelopes. The researchers hope that this discovery may provide important information about the end of the Mitanni period of the city and the beginning of the Assyrian dominion in the region.

Ceramic pottery with cuneiform tablets

ENGLISH VERSION | When crimea was part of the Republic of Genova

The Genoese domain in Crimea. Though usually ignored, this piece of history deserves to remembered, given the recent conflict in Ukraine, as it makes us think about how a country that is perceived to be far from us is actually part of our history.   


From Genoa to Crimea

Constantinople fell in 1204 after the 4th Crusade. The world trembled but then held its breath: the dream of Byzantium survived at Nicaea, held by the house of the Palaiologoi, where the empire survived and was reborn. Then, in 1261, the Treaty of Ninfeo was signed: the Genoese would have helped Michael VIII Palaiologos to retake Constantinople from the Latins; in return, Genoa would have replaced Venice in the maritime trades in the Black Sea, up into Crimea. In reality, this happened because Michael had already tried to retake the capital, but the venetian fleet managed to prevent the capitulation through starvation. Ironically, the decisive Genoese fleet was completely useless: Constantinople fell in the hands of the byzantine army’s vanguard without a fight. Thus, in a motion of perplexity, joy and awe, the Genoese started their own colonial empire without a single loss.

Genoese Colonial Empire


The Gazaria and the Principality of Theodore

When Genoa joined the political and commercial games of the Black Sea, Crimea boasted centuries of coexistence between populations. Notably, the Khazars questioned the byzantine presence in the peninsula during the 7th century, conquering the fortress of Sudak, which is now UNESCO heritage. However, the coastal territories were reconquered, and the empire kept them until 4th Crusade, in 1204, when the Principality of Theodore was born in Crimea. It goes without saying that, with the birth of the Gazaria, which is the Genoese dominion over Crimea, the relationships strained: the Silk Road passed through, and it was a more than valid excuse to fuel feuds and conflicts. From the city of Kaffa, the Genoese attempted, over time, to isolate their neighbors, cutting them out of the sea trades. Therefore, a conflictual situation emerges, where an important piece is missing: the Mongolic interference in the peninsula.

Territories belonging to the Genoese and to the Principality


Struggle over the control of Crimea

The arrival of the mongols changed the balance of power between the Principality and Genoa. In 1308, the city of Kaffa was besieged and conquered but, afterwards, the Genoese managed to retake control, laying the foundations for a heyday period. Even the Principality of Theodore, during 1395, experienced the Mongolian ferocity, but it was able to rise again, standing up to the Genoese. Consequently, two sides were formed: Genoa, supported by the Eastern Roman Empire, and the Principality of Theodore, supported by the Khanate. Anyways, the Genoese power grew so much that the consuls of Kaffa assumed the title of Consuls of the whole Black Sea. Nevertheless, luck did not last: with the fall of Constantinople, in 1453, the Gazaria went into crisis and the Genoese power finally capitulated in 1475, with the fall of Kaffa.

Mohamed II enters in Constantinople, Benjamin Constant (1876)


Sudak: from the Alans to the Genoese

One of the most promiment archeological sites in Crimea is the fortress of Sudak. It is considered to be an Alan foundation of 212 B.C., which, not without reason, was historically kept aside until it became more and more important during the Middle Ages, in relation to the Silk Road. Hence, Sudak became a thriving port, and this attracted the powers that surrounded it. During the 13th century, Venice and Genoa fought over its control, and the latter, after its victory in 1365, realized the most promiment fortifications, which can still be admired today. A unique site: the best example of a genoese fort that is still standing and is perfectly preserved. The symbol of a past, of a contact between populations, of which the existence is ignored, but it’s still there, majestic, guarding the coast of the Black Sea.

The Genoese fortress of Sudak, Crimea.


Kaffa: the Genoa of Crimea

The city of Kaffa (current Feodosiya), rose above the ashes of the Greek settlement of Theodosia, a city that followed the dynamics of the Bosporian Kingdom, and then it vanished during the roman empire. During the 13th century A.D., Kaffa went down in history as a Genoese outpost in the commercial trades of the Black Sea, an originally small settlement which became, over time, a fully-fledged stronghold of the peninsula. It was, indeed, a thorn in its neighbors’ side, which attempted repeatedly to destroy it: the Venetians in 1296, followed by the Mongolians in 1308. In every case, Genoa always manage to reconquer and improve it, so much that in 1472 the Turks will be forced to conquer a city inhabited by 70000 people and defended by two sets of walls. Unfortunately, nowadays, we only have a few remains, a sad evidence of its past splendor.

Feodosia, Carlo Bossoli (1856)