First Punic War Battle Rams Uncovered Off the Coast of Sicily

Archaeology news

The eighth ram discovered from the final battle of the First Punic War. Photo: RPM Nautical Foundation.

In the third and second centuries B.C.E., Rome and Carthage struggled for control of the western Mediterranean in series of conflicts that lasted over 100 years. The First Punic War ended in 241 after Rome defeated the Carthaginian navy near the Aegadian (Egadi) Islands off the coast of Sicily. Maritime archaeological surveys conducted by the RPM Nautical Foundation located the site—the oldest archaeologically-located naval battle landscape—and uncovered ten bronze rams from the ancient warships.

Oxford University recently held a one-day colloquium analyzing the rare finds, which would have been mounted on the prow of the warships. Bearing legible Latin and Punic inscriptions, the bronze rams—weighing over 250 pounds each—are extraordinarily rare in the archaeological record. An Oxford University press release notes that there are “thought to be only four other ships’ rams in total from all of antiquity. These rams are the first to be found in an archaeological context.” In addition to the rams, archaeologists uncovered bronze helmets as well as Roman and Carthaginian pottery and other small finds. The discoveries are part of a large underwater survey project that has mapped over 100 square miles of the sea floor.

Read more from Oxford University

Visit the RPM Nautical website

A monumental underwater structure was recently discovered in the Sea of Galilee. Read more in Bible History Daily.


Interested in Underwater Archaeology? Find out more in the BAS Library

Wachsmann, Shelley. “Archaeological Views: Archaeology Under the Sea.” Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov/Dec 2006, 26, 80.

Wachsmann, Shelley. “The Galilee Boat—2,000-Year-Old Hull Recovered Intact.” Biblical Archaeology Review, Sep/Oct 1988, 18-33.

Misch-Brandl, Osnat. “Ancient Seafarers Bequeath Unintended Legacy.” Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov/Dec 1985, 40-43.

Hohlfelder, Robert L. “Caesarea Beneath the Sea.” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/Jun 1982, 42-47.

Linder, Elisha. “Excavating an Ancient Merchantman.” Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov/Dec 1992, 24-29, 3135.

Vann, Lindley. “News from the Field: Herod’s Harbor Construction Recovered Underwater.Biblical Archaeology Review, May/Jun 1983, 10-11, 14.

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  • Jeff says

    I’m curious… how deep is the water in which these things were found? The Oxford link didn’t mention the depth either. Amazing discoveries.

  • Martin says

    Fabulous find. Makes the old heart race with excitement.

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