The 2,300-year-old Hellenistic-Roman anchor has been pulled from the bottom of the Mediterranean sea near Sicily.
A dolphin symbol dedicated to Aphrodite was inscribed on one of its arms to try and invoke the protection of the Greek goddess. Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and beauty but also less known as the protector of seafarers.
Ancient Relics in the Sicilian Seas
Experts have preliminarily dated the anchor, and they believe that it could be from the 3rd or 4th century B.C., during the Hellenistic period. It was a time of transition among Mediterranean states as they grappled for power.
The period was from the death of the marauding Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. to the emergence of the Roman Empire around 31 B.C.
The site where the anchor was salvaged is known to have ancient relics. Sicilian diving centre's manager, Marcello Basile, found the anchor on the seabed, about 60 feet (19 meters) below the surface. Authorities organized a retrieval operation with the environmental and cultural organization, Soprintendenza del Mare, after receiving reports from Basile.
"Once again in our deep sea, important discoveries from bygone eras have been made. Since ancient times, cities on the Mediterranean coast have been sharing their life, history and trade with Sicily. Our archaeological heritage is a very important thing," said Sicilian President Nello Musumeci.
The anchor is brought to Palermo to conduct further analysis after it was successfully pulled out from the bottom of the sea.
Aphrodite's Less-known Role in Greek Mythology: Protector of Seafarers
Sailors in ancient history often found themselves contending with the might of Mother Nature, that is why they mostly rely on symbolism and religion.
In a statement to the Agi Agenzia Italia, archaeologists Roberto La Rocca and Francesca Oliveri explained that the symbol of a dolphin was there to invoke the powers of Aphrodite to guide the seafarers through tumultuous waters and avoid shipwreck.
Although Aphrodite is best known for being the Greek goddess of sexual love and beauty, she is also linked to the seas and protecting those that traverse that pass by them.
Seafarers would often use anchors with apotropaic symbols and the last onboard ships as a last resort hoping to be saved by the divine.
How Ancient Ruins in Sicily Affect Identities
Stanford senior Madeleine "Elle" Ota dived the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea to excavate remnants of an ancient Roman shipwreck. Ota thought of how these artifacts could affect the residents as archaeologists often do their work and dig for artifacts without asking how those objects affect the people who live near the site.
According to Ota, the residents believe that they inherited their maritime practices, moral values and dialect from ancient Greeks.
Furthermore, Ota said it is important for archaeologists to understand how people today construct their identities with the ancient artifacts and ruins around them to build respect and collaboration among individuals.