The mystery of the underwater cave with 200 amphorae | Culture

The old ships that crossed the route that united the Itálica peninsula with the Iberian used to anchor, from before century II a. C., in the bay of Alcudia (Mallorca) to stock up on water. There, a hundred meters from the sea, a hollow opens, called Ses Aiguades Fountain, in which they introduced amphorae through a system of pulleys and ropes to fill them. But many did not recover. Why? A mystery that brings to the heads of the IASCM Project (Underwater Archaeological Research in the Caves of Mallorca), who wonder if the hoist system was broken or thrown directly as offerings to this well found in 1998. The divers have already found two hundred.

Until now, the dating of the vessels had been carried out through comparisons with other similar ones, being mostly of Tarragona production. But last August, new dives were carried out with innovative prospecting techniques such as radiolocation, geolocation or 3D photogrammetry systems. These technologies, together with future microscopic studies (pollen, ceramics and bones of extinct animals), will allow to know in a global way this underwater site. "The results of the laboratory will offer us the exact dating of the amphorae and will answer questions so far without an answer," explains Manuel Fumás, co-director of the research.

The access to Fuente de Seis Aiguades is done through a vertical gallery of about 6 meters with an approximate section of almost one meter, which leads to a first room of 16 by 14 meters and with a depth of up to 14. It is the entrance to a cave of fresh water, with a high degree of chlorides, which reaches a length of 180 meters, of which most are underwater, although with abundant air chambers in its path. Stalactites hang from the ceilings.

It was discovered by the scientific team of Xisco Gràcia Almost 20 years ago, it recovered 189 amphorae and vessels from the Roman Republican, Islamic and 18th and 19th centuries. Inside, the remains of a Myotragus, a goat species disappeared 5,000 years ago.

The IASCM Project is considered the first in prospective underwater archeology in Europe (it allows to extract all the information without altering the conditions of the cave). They carry out the National Association of Underwater Archeology (Sonars), Submaris, SEB and Explorextrem. The difficulty of his work lies in the high specialization required in research, which makes it essential to have experts in speleobuceo, topography, underwater archeology, photogrammetry, underwater filming, documentation and restoration, among others.

Remains of Roman amphorae found in the cave of Alcudia

Remains of Roman amphorae found in the cave of Alcudia

The study, whose results will be known this year, will determine if the cave was used as a refuge, as a medical sanctuary (because of the chlorine from its waters) or was only a supply point. “The mystery lies in why there are so many amphorae. It is not normal. It could fall some, when breaking the pulley, but not 200. Some researchers like Enric Colom, of Institut Català d'Arqueologia Clàssica, he believes that it may be a sanctuary related to navigation and aquatic deities, being the amphorae offering to some god.

The study I Underwater Archaeological Survey of the Coves Submergides de Mallorca, signed by Francesc Gràcia, Florian Huber and Fumás, details “that the presence of Myotragus It shows that the cavity was natural, formed thousands of years before the arrival of humans in Mallorca and not as a consequence of the anthropic action related to the search for water. ” That is, the goat accidentally fell, but the amphorae threw them. Or not.


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