Phoenician Shipwreck Project dive-team. (Picture: University of Malta)
Technical divers have found the first human remains, in the form of a single tooth, in the lower sediment of the 7th-century BC Phoenician shipwreck found off Gozo in 2007.
The lower-right first molar has already been examined by Maltese dental experts. They believe it belonged to a young person because it is barely worn and has a large pulp chamber, according to a report in the Times of Malta.
The Phoenician Shipwreck Project, which involves archaeological divers routinely operating beyond 100m at the wreck-site, was featured in the September edition of DIVER magazine (Xlendi Wreck: Working at 110m).
Project director Dr Timmy Gambin of the University of Malta has described the implications of the latest discovery as “huge”. He says the intention is to apply both carbon-dating and DNA analysis techniques to the tooth to gain more insight into the ancient ship's occupants.
Only seven Phoenician shipwrecks have ever been found, and the Xlendi Bay wreck's contents are described as “the only well-preserved mixed Phoenician cargo to be discovered intact”.
Following manned submersible surveys, excavations began in 2017, revealing large numbers of ceramic and stone objects, including amphoras and urns, as well as hull-timbers that had been connected using mortice-and-tenon joints.
Dr Gambin told the paper that he now believes the international team “have come as far as we can with the technology we have today. Every time we dive, it takes us six minutes to go down to be able to spend 14 minutes under water. Then it takes two-and-a-half hours to resurface.
“We need to decide whether to leave the wreck for future generations to continue exploring with future technology, or to invest heavily into it and excavate more.”
***** FURTHER TO a police appeal for information on Divernet on 27 September, a post mortem examination has revealed that a body found 46 miles off Salcombe in Devon is that of a white male.
Ruled out as being one of the divers who went missing from the Scylla wreck in Cornwall earlier in the month, the man was 5ft 9in, aged 20-40, shoe-size 9 and with a cap on his lower teeth. He was wearing a full-length black medium ZZCO wetsuit, Slinx socks and Slinx medium-sized gloves and an unidentified brand of boot.
Anyone with information is asked to call DC Claire Scammell of Southampton CID on 07392314306, or email her here.
The police reference is 44210383426.