Dating of a ring on one of the largest known Roman iron anchors (La Grande-Motte, France): Combined metal and organic material radiocarbon analysis

Sébastien Berthaut-Clarac, Emmanuel Nantet, Stéphanie Leroy, Emmanuelle Delqué-Količ, Marion Perron, Pierre Adam, Philippe Schaeffer, Céline Kerfant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Underwater operations conducted along the southern French coast have unveiled two large, isolated anchors of iron. The largest ever found in the ancient Mediterranean, they reveal that Roman merchantmen moored in Aigues-Mortes Bay. A combination of analyses focusing on the ring, which belonged to one of the two anchors, offered the opportunity to collect data from isolated anchors and to document their production. Radiocarbon analysis, conducted for the first time on this type of object, determined that they were manufactured in the early imperial period. Another key discovery was a layer of fibers found in a concretion from the ring, which revealed rare remnants of ropes impregnated with pitch that could correspond to puddening. The replication of similar analyses on rings belonging to other anchors would provide a better understanding of this crucial component for ancient mooring.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103693
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Our thanks go to Max Guérout (GRAN/FED 4124) and Groupe de Recherche en Archéologie Navale, who conducted the operations. We are also grateful to Gregory Votruba for his precious advice. The probes were subsidized by Région Occitanie, Conseil Départemental de l'Hérault, DRASSM and CRESEM. The municipality of La Grande-Motte, the diving club La Palanquée, and the company Étrave Travaux, which extracted the anchor, provided superb logistical support for the underwater operations. Thanks are also due to Christophe Moulherat for taking SEM photos of the fibers and to Dana Katz for her editorial support in the preparation of the manuscript. Athenaeus, The Learned banqueters. 2, Books III.106e-V (edited and translated by S. Douglas Olson, 2006. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press). Dionysius of Halicarnassus, The Roman antiquities (trans. Earnest Cary and Edward Spelman, 1953. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press). Aubin, N. 1702. Dictionnaire de marine contenant les termes de la navigation et de l'architecture navale avec les règles & proportions qui doivent y être observées. Amsterdam, Pierre Brunel. Martelli, C. 1838. The Naval Officer's Guide for preparing ships for sea. London, Richard Bentley. 2nd edition.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Fibers
  • Large iron anchors
  • Pitch
  • Puddening
  • Radiocarbon analysis
  • Ring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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