Roman Amphorae in Rio de Janeiro

treasurediver

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Mar 13, 2005
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In the 1980's Robert F. Marx published a story about finding Roman Amphorae in the bay, Bahia Guanabara, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
This was quite a sensation at the time.

I would like to piece the whole story together. I was myself involved in the story to a degree and believe to know about 80% of the story. It would be nice to get hold of the missing 20%.

Where was the story of the "Roman Amphorae in Rio de Janeiro" published?
  1. "Mondo Sommerso" the Italian diving magazine.
  2. Archaeological journals?
  3. Magazines? "CRUZEIRO"
Help would be greatly appreciated.
 

: Michael-Robert.

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The lowly amphora (and ancient contact across the oceans):​


Professor Elizabeth Lyding Will (1924 - 2009, obituary here) was one of the world's leading authorities on amphoras, an ancient two-handled container that her research demonstrated to be vitally important for tracing ancient trade patterns and for opening windows on tremendous amounts of information about ancient life and commerce.

In a 2000 article entitled "The Roman Amphora: learning from storage jars," she discusses the diverse uses of "the lowly Roman amphora—a two-handled clay jar used by the Canaanites, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans to ship goods," describing both its main usage for the transportation of liquids including wine, olive oil, and fish sauce, and its many other auxiliary uses, from funerary urn to acoustic enhancement device in theaters.

It makes fascinating reading, but the most intriguing aspect of the article, perhaps, comes in the final paragraph, in which Professor Lyding states that she has in her possession a fragment from one of the controversial amphoras found in Guanabara Bay outside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and that she believes its characteristics may indicate a date of the third century AD.

This 1985 article from the New York Times explains that the bay is littered with shipwrecks, but that a particular submerged reef within the bay is known for the ancient jars that local fishermen have reported hauling up in their nets for years (hence the informal moniker, "Bay of Jars"). In the 1970s, the article reports, "a Brazilian diver brought up two complete jars with twin handles, tapering at the bottom, the kind that ancient Mediterranean peoples widely used for storage and are known as amphoras."

This piqued the interest of Florida author Robert Marx, who obtained permission to dive at the site in late 1982, and found the remains of over 200 broken amphoras as well as several complete amphoras. However, the article goes on to explain that Mr. Marx alleges that the Brazilian Navy abruptly rescinded his permission to dive after these artifacts were brought up, because (in the words of the article's author): "proof of a Roman presence would require Brazil to rewrite its recorded history, which has the Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral discovering the country in 1500."

He says that officials of the Brazilian government told him, ''Brazilians don't care about the past. And they don't want to replace Cabral as the discoverer.'' The Brazilian Navy then dumped masses of silt over the site of the wreck and buried the remaining amphoras, according to Mr. Marx.

This article from the site "rogueclassicism" argues that the amphoras found in Brazil should not be taken as conclusive proof of ancient trans-Atlantic commerce (or even an ancient accidental crossing), casting doubt on the credibility of Mr. Marx as well as pointing out that "that amphorae were used by the Spanish in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries to transport olive oil (and other purposes, I would imagine)!" thus raising the possibility that the amphoras in question might have been lost in the bay much later than the ancient era.

While this possibility should certainly be examined, the analysis of Dr. Will, one of the foremost authorities on amphoras and their dating, should certainly carry significant weight. It is mere speculation to argue that these amphoras could be from the 15th, 16th or 17th centuries, while Dr. Will's opinion was based on actual examination of artifacts and her very extensive experience.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that the possibility of ancient trans-oceanic contact should never be pinned on any single artifact or "data point." The fact is, there is an enormous pile of evidence pointing to ongoing ancient crossing of the oceans -- there are literally thousands of data points in addition to these particular amphoras. A list of some of the others can be found in this previous blog post.

Regarding amphoras, it also appears that the amphoras found near Rio are not alone: David Hatcher Childress reports in Lost Cities of North & Central America that "A Carthaginian shipwreck containing a cargo of amphorae was discovered in 1972 off the coast of Honduras" (15).

The possibility that amphoras and shipwrecks found in the Americas might be of Phoenician origin rather than necessarily of Roman origin is significant. Note that in the first quotation from Professor Will cited at the top of this blog post, she describes an amphora as "a two-handled clay jar used by the Canaanites, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans to ship goods." This excellent discussion of ancient Roman wine and viticulture (from the University of Chicago) explains that the Romans appear to have learned about growing wine grapes and making wine from the Phoenicians (or at least from their captured texts on how to do it).

The same website also contains some discussion of amphoras, along with a photograph and a diagram of various amphora shapes. That site declares that "The replacement of amphorae, which were airtight, by wooden barrels in the second century AD meant that vintage wines would not reappear until the seventeenth century, with the development of the glass bottle and cork."

Amphoras, then, are extremely important artifacts. The fact that ancient amphoras may have been found under the waters off the coastline of the Americas is hardly well-known among the general population, but it is yet another important clue pointing to the fact that ancient civilizations were capable of far more than we give them credit for.
amphoras.jpg


Link: https://mathisencorollary.blogspot.com/2012/02/lowly-amphora-and-ancient-contact.html
 

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treasurediver

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Thank you Michael_Robert for the links.

Excellent, we are getting a lot of info there.

An interesting article is the one written by Americo Santarelli in the Italian Dive Magazine "Mondo Sommerso"
Americo Santarelli built the first factory of dive gear in Brazil. The trade name was Cressi-Sub. His son, an engineer worked for the same company I worked as a diver in the construction of the 9 Miles long bridge across the bay of Guanabara.
This is where the story started.
I was also building my 72ft Schooner on the Ilha Do Governador mentioned in the articles above.
 

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treasurediver

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And here is a picture of Dr. Harold Edgerton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (mentioned in the articles above) on my boat in the Bahamas. He is testing his sub-bottom profiler on the site of the Eldorado Anchors north of Bimini. 19 View attachment 2132080 81
Roman Amphorae in Rio De Janeiro.

Well, sorry, but this starts with another octopus story.

We, D., W. the Lawyer, Bob Marx and I had agreed to make a joint venture to work on the 5 shipwrecks I had located and written about, to Bob Marx.

We sailed the 1000 miles to Salvador. Some 200 miles off the coast, about half way to Salvador, we had a fire on board. We managed to dowse the fire. (The prospect of swimming 200 miles to shore was a powerful incentive.)

Any fire on any ship, is a very serious matter. Proof is, all 5 shipwrecks we were going to work on, sank by fire. One of the shipwrecks even had a fire curse cast on it. Anyway, this is a story for another day.

We reached port and I notified D. and Marx in Rio, that I would need a few days for repair. Marx asked if I had any other treasure stories to check up in Rio, while he waited.

I told him about the airplane with the diamond shipment and about the diver who had found a place with many clay jars. I gave the names of the 2 divers and their discoveries. Marx looked them up.

Working as diver on the construction of the bridge in Rio de Janeiro, I did a lot of underwater cutting of steel plates. These 3/8” plates were heavily encrusted with barnacles and mussels. First I had to clean the surface with a steel scraper, then cut a 5”x6” hole to attach the hook of the crane that would pull the plate out.

Between the mussels many octopus made a good life eating the mussels. Sometimes I grabbed a few for dinner. So it happened one day that a “Goliath Grouper” mistook my red plastic glove for an octopus and swallowed my hand. I quickly pulled my hand back and the “Goliath Grouper" left with my glove. My hand was bleeding profusely. Funny how the blood looks black like octopus ink at 80ft depth.
I surfaced. The back of my hand was only scratched and did not even need stitches. One of the divers who often went fishing for octopus started telling stories of fighting with groupers over octopus. He told of a place where there were many clay jars, in every jar an octopus. He cracked the jars with a hammer to grab the octopus.

To be continued....
 

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treasurediver

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Mar 13, 2005
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Roman Amphorae in Rio De Janeiro.

Well, sorry, but this starts with another octopus story.

We, D., W. the Lawyer, Bob Marx and I had agreed to make a joint venture to work on the 5 shipwrecks I had located and written about, to Bob Marx.

We sailed the 1000 miles to Salvador. Some 200 miles off the coast, about half way to Salvador, we had a fire on board. We managed to dowse the fire. (The prospect of swimming 200 miles to shore was a powerful incentive.)

Any fire on any ship, is a very serious matter. Proof is, all 5 shipwrecks we were going to work on, sank by fire. One of the shipwrecks even had a fire curse cast on it. Anyway, this is a story for another day.

We reached port and I notified D. and Marx in Rio, that I would need a few days for repair. Marx asked if I had any other treasure stories to check up in Rio, while he waited.

I told him about the airplane with the diamond shipment and about the diver who had found a place with many clay jars. I gave the names of the 2 divers and their discoveries. Marx looked them up.

Working as diver on the construction of the bridge in Rio de Janeiro, I did a lot of underwater cutting of steel plates. These 3/8” plates were heavily encrusted with barnacles and mussels. First I had to clean the surface with a steel scraper, then cut a 5”x6” hole to attach the hook of the crane that would pull the plate out.

Between the mussels many octopus made a good life eating the mussels. Sometimes I grabbed a few for dinner. So it happened one day that a “Goliath Grouper” mistook my red plastic glove for an octopus and swallowed my hand. I quickly pulled my hand back and the “Goliath Grouper" left with my glove. My hand was bleeding profusely. Funny how the blood looks black like octopus ink at 80ft depth.
I surfaced. The back of my hand was only scratched and did not even need stitches. One of the divers who often went fishing for octopus started telling stories of fighting with groupers over octopus. He told of a place where there were many clay jars, in every jar an octopus. He cracked the jars with a hammer to grab the octopus.

To be continued....
Roman Amphorae in Rio de Janeiro

So how did the octopus jars turn into roman Amphorae?

Americo Santarelli, an immigrant from Italy, was an avid spear fisherman. He was the first manufacturer of dive gear in Brazil, a country with 8000 miles of shore line. In his dive gear factory he produced also the best spear guns. He made a fortune.

A wealthy man, he liked to travel back to his homeland Italy, Rome and all the historic sites of antiquity. When he built his palace in roman style, overlooking to blue waters of the Atlantic ocean, he found it lacked some roman artifacts for decoration.

In Italy they did not let him export some amphorae. So he took pictures and measurements and had copies thrown in one of the many clay pot factories near Rio.

A potter becomes proficient in his art by throwing thousands and thousands of clay pots. Presented with the challenge of throwing an unusual shape, he knows how to train his eyes and hands by throwing a few trial pieces. After about 100 pieces the routine is well developed and becomes intuitive.

Americo only wanted a few roman amphora copies, but the potter told him he had to order 100. So be it. Now the amphorae were fired and most of them looked just perfect, but brand new. As a diver and spear fisherman, Americo knew very well the place to put the amphorae on the bottom of the bay, where the barnacles, coral, oysters and mussels grew fast. Soon the amphorae looked as if they had spent a long time on the bottom of the ocean and made the perfect decoration for the roman style palace.

After Robert F. Marx made a lot of noise about finding a roman shipwreck in Rio de Janeiro, Americo felt bad about being involved in some way, specially since he had lent his sport fisher boat to Marx to look for shipwrecks.

Americo Santarelli published the whole story of the origin and purpose of the amphora copies in the Italian diving magazine “Mondo Sommerso.
 

: Michael-Robert.

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Feb 2, 2013
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Roman Amphorae in Rio de Janeiro

So how did the octopus jars turn into roman Amphorae?

Americo Santarelli, an immigrant from Italy, was an avid spear fisherman. He was the first manufacturer of dive gear in Brazil, a country with 8000 miles of shore line. In his dive gear factory he produced also the best spear guns. He made a fortune.

A wealthy man, he liked to travel back to his homeland Italy, Rome and all the historic sites of antiquity. When he built his palace in roman style, overlooking to blue waters of the Atlantic ocean, he found it lacked some roman artifacts for decoration.

In Italy they did not let him export some amphorae. So he took pictures and measurements and had copies thrown in one of the many clay pot factories near Rio.

A potter becomes proficient in his art by throwing thousands and thousands of clay pots. Presented with the challenge of throwing an unusual shape, he knows how to train his eyes and hands by throwing a few trial pieces. After about 100 pieces the routine is well developed and becomes intuitive.

Americo only wanted a few roman amphora copies, but the potter told him he had to order 100. So be it. Now the amphorae were fired and most of them looked just perfect, but brand new. As a diver and spear fisherman, Americo knew very well the place to put the amphorae on the bottom of the bay, where the barnacles, coral, oysters and mussels grew fast. Soon the amphorae looked as if they had spent a long time on the bottom of the ocean and made the perfect decoration for the roman style palace.

After Robert F. Marx made a lot of noise about finding a roman shipwreck in Rio de Janeiro, Americo felt bad about being involved in some way, specially since he had lent his sport fisher boat to Marx to look for shipwrecks.

Americo Santarelli published the whole story of the origin and purpose of the amphora copies in the Italian diving magazine “Mondo Sommerso.
Yes, that was one theory. People believe he had them made. Not new news. However, there were over 2000 of them by Marx's account.. Americo could afford that many easily... So, The remains of a ship would put this all to rest.... Research that specific detail.
 

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treasurediver

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Roman coins in Brazil?

Every few years, a new story about Roman coins found in Brazil emerges.

No conclusive proof has been shown that the Romans have landed in Brazil. But? Has anybody ever tried to follow up such a story?

Here is the picture of a "Roman coin" found in Brazil. The story goes like that:

A helicopter crew, pilot, Co-pilot and mechanic were delivering a helicopter from the south to the north of Brazil. This is a trip of several thousands of miles. They made a few stops. At one stop, on the North East coast, they had a layover of 2 days.

Flying along the coast, they has seen the beauty of the beaches and reefs in the clear blue ocean. To spend a few hours fishing seemed a good way to pass the time. They hired a fishing boat with a skipper and headed out to the coastal fringe reef. A bit of a chop had started, like it always does with the sea breeze. Anchoring behind the reef it was calm enough.

I don’t know if they caught any fish. After some time they pulled up the anchor and headed for the shore. The anchor had brought up some mud. Within the mud there were some pieces of wood. Between the pieces of woof there were some coins. Gold! Gold!

No, it was not gold. Just bronze. 17 coins. They divided the coins among them.

I was shown one of the coins for an opinion. I had never seen any such coin. I took the picture shown here.

Only after a long search I found a picture similar to this coin. It appears to be a Roman coin of the later Roman period.

Maybe some tnet member could give an opinion?

Is it really a Roman coin?

The location seems to indicate a shipwreck. A ship or boat that crashed into the reef. At least a part of the wreckage lies in the lee of the reef in about 30 ft. covered with mud.

The pilot of the Helicopter drew a small map for me. The wreckage lies about 500 to 800 meters south of the lighthouse. I suppose as a helicopter pilot he is capable to estimate such a distance quite accurately.

I never got a chance to survey the location. Is it worth it?
 

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treasurediver

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Romans in Brazil?

Is that even possible?

Not only it is possible, it is also very likely.

Attached is an article about a German who crossed the Atlantic 2 times. Once in a Dugout canoe and the other time in a foldable canoe. Also about a Frenchman who crossed the Atlantic in a Zodiac rubber boat.


In recent years several people have rowed across the Atlantic. Romans had great, very seaworthy ships and were good navigators.

The much more difficult part is to find the way back to Europe.
 

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treasurediver

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Yes, that was one theory. People believe he had them made. Not new news. However, there were over 2000 of them by Marx's account.. Americo could afford that many easily... So, The remains of a ship would put this all to rest.... Research that specific detail.

Here is a link to Sir Robert F. Marx lectures, page 3

Adventures in Brazil​

 

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