Isle Of Wight Shipwrecks: Ancient And Roman

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Early Sailors And Shipwrecks

The Stone Age

There are very few remains of early ships and shipwrecks, mainly due to weathering over the last few thousand years. The earliest evidence of the waters around the Island being used by sea vessels is from the Neolithic Period, from 3500-2500 BC. Pots made from the same clay have been found not only on the Island, but also near Salisbury. Pots made from Island clay have also been found near Winchester. Axe heads, too, have been found on the Island made from Cornish greenstone, and even one made from rock from County Antrim, Ireland. Several continental axe heads have also been found.

How often the Henge and Beaker peoples sailed, and the design of their ships, is unknown, yet it is likely that there were several shipwrecks during this period.

The Bronze Age

Sea-faring continued in the Bronze Age, as a jar made in Armorica, France, has been found in a burial mound on Gallibury Down. A burial mound in Puncknowle, Dorset was found to have contained a mound of over 1.5 tonnes of Bembridge Limestone, stone found only on the Island. There is also evidence of finely decorated bronze arm rings and neck rings made in the Seine and Somme valleys found at Portsmouth and the Island. There is evidence that an Island potter
living near Week Down on the Island learnt her skills on the tip of Cornwall.

Sea-faring therefore continued, and with so many ships sailing, shipwrecks would have been inevitable.

The Iron Age

By the first millennium BC, imported Italian wine was finding its ways to the waters around the Island. It is from this period that the first written records exist. Strabo described the voyages of the Veneti during the 1st Century BC, with Armorican traders landing at an "emporion" or market that may have bene on the Island, or possibly Hengistbury. Bembridge Limestone continued to be used and traded, as it has been found near Basingstoke. Trade in the area continued
to develop, with Tin growing in importance. Several iron-age coins have been found on the Island.

Pre-Roman Shipwreck

The earliest remains of a shipwreck have been found from this period. Although the ship itself no longer exists, a team of archaeologists have discovered a large amount of pottery dating from the 1st century BC, pottery that not only comes from France, but also the Mediterranean and all over the Roman Empire, over a hundred years before the Roman Conquest of Britain.

The Roman Empire

For the first three centuries AD, after the Roman conquest of the Island, the waters surrounding the Island were busy with the cross channel trade. Many villas were established on the Island, both Newport and Brading Roman Villas were sited near major rivers, and when, in 1878, the waters of Brading Haven were reclaimed, the remains of an ancient ship was discovered, which was believed to be Roman. Sadly, this find was not fully documented, and its Roman origin is not proved. Some local historians believe it may have been a Saxon boat, but sadly nothing remains of it to study. What is known is that Brading Haven was used for Roman trade, and is likely to have been the site of Alfred The Great's sea battle against the Danes in 897AD.

There is also remains of a Roman shipwreck on Goose Rock, where several Roman coins have been discovered.

Shipwrecks Of The Isle Of Wight

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