Dr. Marcus Heinrich Hermanns from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cologne has recovered three lead bars which may originate from the third century before Christ, 39 meters under the sea off the north coast of Ibiza. One of the bars has Iberian characters on it. According to the German Mining Museum in Bochum, the lead originates from the mines of Sierra Morena in southern Spain.
With the help of local volunteer divers, some of whom he also trained in crash courses in underwater archaeology financed by the local government, Dr. Hermanns examined the three lead bars. A fourth specimen had already been found on an earlier occasion. The characters on the upper surfaces of two of the four known bars are syllabary symbols from the script of Northeastern Iberian. “The characters must have been added to the metal before it had set, shortly after it had been cast,” says the underwater archaeologist Dr. Hermanns, “in which case, the characters are more likely to be related to production as opposed to commercial information.”
The meaning of the characters has not yet been determined, however, the dating of the objects to the third century B.C., i.e. the period of the Second Punic War, raises further questions. The reason for this is that there is very little evidence for the downsizing of silver works in the Sierra Morena region for this period. There is, however, evidence for this in the mining area around Cartagena in the eastern part of the Iberian Peninsula, i.e. the language area of Northeastern Iberian. For this reason, scientists suspect that the raw lead was processed and branded in this area, before it was placed on board a freighter that was shipwrecked off the north coast of Ibiza.
The destination planned for the lead remains unknown. The reason why the lead was transported from the Spanish mainland to the Balearic Islands, even though silver mines were in operation on the islands, has not been established. During antiquity, lead was a by-product of silver mining and used mainly for coinage. Dr. Hermanns therefore assumes that the lead was used as munitions for mercenaries provided by the Baleareans during antiquity.
Due to the dating of the lead, it would make sense that this was for the Second Punic War. “The examination of the recovered lead bars provides a further basing point for the examination of the pre-Roman metal industry in the western Mediterranean region,” according to Dr. Hermanns, “there have been some relevant discoveries in the past, however, it is very difficult to establish anything concrete with certainty, due to the research done so far.” This project was sponsored by the Fritz-Thyssen-Stiftung, Cologne.
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