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A bell-shaped stone anchor with two quadrangular holes on the vertical axis. Holes made by lithophagus organisms.

The artefact shows evident traces of perforation caused by endolithic animal organisms whose distribution seems to be different on the two flat surfaces. The whitish coloured side presents small circular or elliptical holes, isolated or paired, visible on a large part of the surface that may be attributable to boring Polychaeta. The most evident degradation phenomena are the sub-centimetric openings of the internal tunnels dug by bivalve boring molluscs, whose valves are still present inside some of the holes. The side covered with a brownish deposit presents a relevant number of perforations with a diameter of 1-1,5, clearly attributable to bivalve boring molluscs; despite the absence of their shells, the traces can be attributed with a good approximation to the genre Lithophaga (date mussels). These holes appear partially eroded along the rim and covered with fouling elements and sediments: such a condition may indicate that this side was in contact with the seabed and the degradation processes took place when this part of the artefact was exposed.  On the same side, there are also some calcareous tubes caused by sedentary Polychaeta.

Holes made by lithophagous molluscs of the genus Lithophaga. Valves of lithophagous molluscs still present inside the cavities.

Many scholars have attempted to study the so-called lithic anchors1. Among them, Honor Frost, Dan E. McCaslin, Alessandra Nibbi, Shelley Wachsmann and János Attila Tòth have developed chronologies and tables that are often conflicting2. However, we can affirm that this typology, precisely because of its simplicity, is undoubtedly very ancient and can be found since the Bronze Age, as evidenced by the specimens found in the sanctuary of Ugarit3. Certainly not limited only to this period, as stated by McCaslin, given that the wrecks of Antidragonera and Ognina D have returned some of them(4). A similar argument applies to Frost’s theories, who at the end of the 1990s wanted them to be used only on Phoenix ships and abandoned in the Iron Age due to their weight(5).

To demonstrate that this particular type of anchor had a chronologically wide use we can mention the finds from the medieval era (14th century), with one or more holes, published by Avner Raban and coming from the port of Caesarea from certain and sealed stratigraphies6. Raban also documents its use in Italy in recent years(7).

It is also certain that many of these finds had alternative uses to the more intuitive ones of anchoring. Particular shapes would seem to lead more to uses linked to fishing such as dead bodies or reused threshing stones(8).


1 In Italia ci piace ricordare Piero Alfredo Gianfrotta con Patrice Pomey, Gerard Kapitän ed Edoardo Riccardi (GIANFROTTA, POMEY 1981; KAPITÄN 1984; RICCARDI 1996)

2 FROST 1973; MCCASLIN 1980; NIBBI 1993; WACHSMANN 1998; TÒTH 2002.

3 FROST 1969.

4 Entrambi relitti del IV secolo a.C. Cfr. KOURKOUMELIS 2000, p. 241 e 2004; GIBBINS 2001, p. 225

5 FROST 1997. Le ipotesi di McCaslin e della Frost sono state discusse e messe in dubbio da altri studiosi. Cfr. ad esempio GIANFROTTA 1983; KINGSLEY 1996; ID. 1994; RABAN 2000.

6 RABAN 2000

7 Vd. anche RABAN 2000.

8 Vd. anche GIANFROTTA 1983 e GALASSO 2000, pp. 265-282

Frost H. 1969, The stone anchors of Ugarit, in Ugaritica 6, pp. 235-245.

Frost H.1973, Anchors, the potsherds of marine archaeology: on the recording of pierced stones from the Mediterranean, in D.J. Blackman (Ed.), Marine Archaeology, London, pp. 397-406.

Frost H. 1997, Bronze age stone anchors (Eastern Mediterranean), in J.P. Delgado (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology, London, pp. 74-75.

Galasso M. 2000, Ancore di pietra fra archeologia ed etnografia, in Archeologia Postmedievale, 4, pp. 265-282

Gianfrotta P. A., Pomey P. 1981, Archeologia subacquea, storia, tecniche, scoperte e relitti, Milano.

Gianfrotta P.A. 1983, Recensione a Dan E. McCaslin: Stone Anchors in Antiquity, in Gnomon 55, pp. 336-339.

Gibbins D. 2001, Shipwreck and ellenistic trade, in Zofia H.A., Davies J., Gabrielsen V., Oliver G.J. (eds.), Hellenistic Economies, , London-New York,

Kapitän G. 1984, Ancient Anchors – Tecnology and Classification, in IJNA 13.1, pp. 33-44

Kingsley S.A., Raveh K. 1994, Stone anchors from Byzantine contexts in Dor Harbour, Israel, in IJNA 23, pp. 1-12

Kingsley S.A., Raveh K. 1996, The Ancient Harbour and Anchorage at Dor, Israel. Results of the underwater surveys 1976-1991, BAR Int. Series 626, Oxford.

Kourkoumelis D. 2000, The Antidragonera Wreck (Kythera, end of 4th century BC), Island in Archaeology: Vorgeschichte, Klassische Antike, Mittelalter, Neuzeit (Internationaler Kongress 10-12 Juli 1998, Starnberg), in Archäologie unterWasser 3, München,

Kourkoumelis D. 2004, Les ancres pyramidales en pierre. Problèmes et techniques d’ancrage des navires au IV siècle av. J.-C., in Brun J.P., Philippe J. (Eds.), Texnai. Techniques et societès en Mèditerranèe, Paris, pp. 649-661.

Mccaslin D.E. 1980, Stone Anchors in Antiquity: Coastal Settlements and Maritime Trade-Routes in the Eastern Mediterranean ca. 1600-1050 B.C., Göteborg.

Nibbi A. 1993, Stone anchors: the evidence re-assessed, in The Mariner’s Mirror 79, pp. 5-26.

Raban A. 2000, Three-hole composite stone anchors from a medieval context at Caesarea Maritima, Israel, in IJNA 29.2, pp. 260-272.

Riccardi E. 1996, Ancore, in Ciciliot F. (ed), Navalia – archeologia e storia, Savona, pp. 9-30

Tòth J.A. 2002, Composite stone anchors in the ancient Mediterranean, in Acta Archaeologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 53, pp. 85-118.

Wachsmann S. 1998, Seagoing Ships and Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant, College Station- London .

MUSAS Ref. No.EGN5Inv. No.RCE 2263Dimensionsh. 29 cm; width 23; thickness: 9; upper hole: 4×4; bottom hole: 4×5MaterialsCalcareniteLocationNational Archaeological Museum of Egnatia “Giuseppe Andreassi”. Depot 3, MuseumOriginMonopoli, BastioniDatingUncertainShare