This paper describes and discusses twigs of the dwarf shrub thorny burnet (Sarcopoterium spinosum L.) found in association with submerged remains of a Roman (4th century AD) shipwreck discovered off the Israeli Carmel coast. The twigs were recovered from within a crumpled lead container, interpreted as part of a bilge pump. The find demonstrates again that, under certain favourable circumstances, fragile botanical material can be preserved on ancient shipwreck sites. Similar twigs found previously in association with shipwrecks have been identified as dunnage, i.e. packing material intended to protect the cargo. In this particular case they were apparently used as a bilge pump filter. Thorny burnet grows profusely in the Eastern Mediterranean, but elsewhere only in a few isolated coastal areas most of which are in the vicinity of ancient ports. The wider implications of the past use of non-timber shrubs onboard ships is discussed, in particular, how this may have promoted colonisation by plants of areas beyond their natural distribution, and also how botanical material recovered from shipwrecks may help identify ancient sailing routes and ports of call.
- Plant dispersal
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Science (miscellaneous)