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Sunk by a Tsunami, Underwater Archaeologists Finally Find the Ruins of the Roman City Neapolis

Sunk by a Tsunami, Underwater Archaeologists Finally Find the Ruins of the Roman City Neapolis


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After almost a decade of searching, the ruins of the city of Neapolis have finally been located. They have also decided the city likely held a monopoly over a fermented Roman delicacy.

Phys.org reports the vast Roman ruins were discovered off the coast of Nabeul, in northeast Tunisia. The submerged city stretches over 20 hectares (almost 50 acres). As some of Neapolis’ ruins remain aboveground, underwater archaeologists have been searching the region for the last seven years in hope of finding the underwater counterpart. Favorable weather allowed them to finally attain that goal this summer.

Based on underwater prospecting carried out at the site, the researchers have asserted Neapolis was partially submerged by a tsunami on July 21 in 365 AD, a natural disaster that also damaged Alexandria in Egypt and Greece’s island of Crete. This confirms an account recorded by the Roman soldier and historian Ammien Marcellin.

According to the Independent, Neapolis does not show up in many other records because it sided with Carthage over Rome during the Third Punic War in 149–146 BC.

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The researchers have discovered monuments, streets, and about 100 tanks that were used in the production of a fermented fish condiment known as garum.

Mounir Fantar, the head of a Tunisian-Italian archaeological mission said: “This discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major center for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest center in the Roman world. Probably the notables of Neapolis owed their fortune to garum.”

Vistor Labate described some details on Roman cuisine during the Empire era for Ancient Origins:

“[A]s Rome expanded and became more prosperous, food became more diverse. Romans became acquainted with the foods and cooking methods of the provinces […] The cena, which initially consisted of only one course, developed into two courses during the Republic: a main course and a dessert served with fruit or seafood. By the end of the Republic, it evolved into a three-course meal: the appetizer (gustatio), the main course (primae mensae) and the dessert (secundae mensae).”

‘The Romans of the Decadence’ (1847) by Thomas Couture.

But Labate writes that not everyone could eat that way, social class definitely played a role in the foods available to an individual:

“[R]egular Romans could not afford to eat meat and expensive exotic foods from the provinces. They often ate the porridge made of emmer, salt, fat and water (the puls) with bread sprayed with a little bit of salt. Richer Romans ate the same porridge but added chopped vegetables, meat, cheese and various herbs to it. Bread was a staple food in ancient Rome which was often eaten with honey, olives, cheese or egg, noting that Romans also dipped their bread in wine.”

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Still life with glass bowl of fruit and vases’ by a Pompeian painter in 70 AD, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, Italy.

And if you are curious to know more about that fish paste, Pompeii Food and Drink describes it (and provides):

“It was made by the crushing and fermentation in brine of the intestines of fish such as tuna, eel, anchovies, and mackerel. Because the production of garum created such an unpleasant smell, its fermentation was relegated to the outskirts of cities. The finished product was quite mild and subtle, and was mixed with wine, vinegar, pepper, oil, or water to enhance the flavor of many dishes. Garum is similar to fish sauce used today in Thai and Vietnamese cooking.”

Maybe garum would be a delicacy for some modern palates too?


    ‘Tsunami-sunk’ Roman ruins discovered in Tunisia

    Nabeul (Tunisia) (AFP) – Vast underwater Roman ruins have been discovered off northeast Tunisia, apparently confirming a theory that the city of Neapolis was partly submerged by a tsunami in the 4th century AD.

    “It’s a major discovery,” Mounir Fantar, the head of a Tunisian-Italian archaeological mission which made the find off the coast of Nabeul, told AFP.

    He said an underwater expedition had found streets, monuments and around 100 tanks used to produce garum, a fermented fish-based condiment that was a favourite of ancient Rome.

    “This discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major centre for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest centre in the Roman world,” said Fantar.

    “Probably the notables of Neapolis owed their fortune to garum.”

    Fantar’s team started work in 2010 in search of the port of Neapolis but only made the breakthrough find of the ruins stretching out over 20 hectares (almost 50 acres) this summer thanks to favourable weather conditions.

    The discovery also proved that Neapolis had been partly submerged by a tsunami on July 21 in 365 AD that badly damaged Alexandria in Egypt and the Greek island of Crete, as recorded by historian Ammien Marcellin.


    'Tsunami-sunk' Roman ruins discovered in Tunisia

    A handout picture released by the Tunisian National Heritage Institute and the University of Sassari on August 31, 2017 shows archaeologists diving off the coast of Nabeul in northeastern Tunisia at the site of the ancient Roman city of Neapolis. Photo: AFP

    NABEUL: Vast underwater Roman ruins have been discovered off northeast Tunisia, apparently confirming a theory that the city of Neapolis was partly submerged by a tsunami in the 4th century AD.

    "It´s a major discovery," Mounir Fantar, the head of a Tunisian-Italian archaeological mission which made the find off the coast of Nabeul, told AFP.

    He said an underwater expedition had found streets, monuments and around 100 tanks used to produce garum, a fermented fish-based condiment that was a favourite of ancient Rome.

    "This discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major centre for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest centre in the Roman world," said Fantar.

    "Probably the notables of Neapolis owed their fortune to garum."

    Fantar´s team started work in 2010 in search of the port of Neapolis but only made the breakthrough find of the ruins stretching out over 20 hectares (almost 50 acres) this summer thanks to favourable weather conditions.

    The discovery also proved that Neapolis had been partly submerged by a tsunami on July 21 in 365 AD that badly damaged Alexandria in Egypt and the Greek island of Crete, as recorded by historian Ammien Marcellin.


    Lost Ancient City of Neapolis Was Discovered Underwater in Tunisia

    Recently, the ruins of the lost city were finally located near the cost of Nabeul in Tunisia. In fact, some of the ruins that remained aboveground had been discovered earlier, but the underwater part of Neapolis was more difficult to find. It took archaeologists seven years to succeed in this endeavor.

    The tsunami

    Thanks to underwater prospecting, the research team were able to confirm that Neapolis was sunk by a tsunami on July 21 in 365 AD. Historians estimate that the tsunami was caused by an earthquake which included two tremors. The strongest of those reached a magnitude of 8.0, which led to catastrophic consequences. Thus, according to the records by Roman historian Ammien Marcellin, this disastrous event also damaged the ancient city of Alexandria in Egypt and the Greek island of Crete.

    The history of Neapolis

    The city of Neapolis was founded in the 5th century BC by the Greeks of Cyrene and its name translates as “new city”. We don’t have much information about Neapolis as there are very few references to it in the Roman literature. It probably has to do with the fact that the city sided with Carthage during the Third Punic War, which took place in 149–146 BC. During this war, Carthage was trying to set free from the power of the Roman Empire, which, however, resulted in a defeat and loss of independence. Historians believe that after the Punic Wars, Neapolis was punished for its lack of loyalty to the Roman state.

    The Roman delicacy

    In the archaeological site, which is over 20 hectares big, there were found streets, numerous monuments and around one hundred tanks which were used to make so-called garum, a fermented fish condiment that was a popular delicacy in the ancient world. In fact, the archaeologists believe that apart from being a trade port, Neapolis was once a center of fermented delicacy production and could also have a monopoly over it.

    Mounir Fantar, the head of the joint Tunisian-Italian mission that has been trying to find the sunk city since 2010, told AFP:

    “This discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major center for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest center in the Roman world. Probably the notables of Neapolis owed their fortune to garum.”

    The ancient Neapolis may not be as well-known as the lost city of Atlantis, but discoveries like this one bring a piece of the ancient world to us. It is fascinating to see how the mysteries of the past unravel before our eyes, isn’t it?

    Image credit: National Heritage Institute Tunisia/University of Sassari


    Sunken City Hit by Ancient Tsunami Discovered

    Archaeologists have found a massive complex of underwater ruins off the northeastern coast of Tunisia, proving that an ancient Roman city that once stood there was devastated by a tsunami 1,600 years ago and was partially lost beneath the waves.

    The discovery has revealed the Roman city of Neapolis, with its networks of submerged streets and monuments, was a crucial trading hub in ancient north Africa.

    The fourth century tsunami that partly destroyed Neapolis was well recorded at the time. It struck in Alexandria, one of the great seats of learning in the ancient world as well as the Greek Island of Crete.

    "It's a major discovery," Mounir Fantar, the head of a Tunisian-Italian archaeological mission which made the find, told AFP.

    The further recovery of Roman food products, including roughly 100 tanks of fermented fish that was used as a condiment known as garum in the Roman empire, has told the archaeological team more about Neapolis’s history.

    Columns from the Roman ruins are seen in Sbeitla, in Kasserine Tunisia is home to some of the most impressive examples of Greek, Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine, Arab and European heritage sites. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

    "This discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major center for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest centre in the Roman world," said Fantar.

    "Probably the notables of Neapolis owed their fortune to garum," he added.

    The Tunisian and Italian team began the search for the remains of Neapolis in 2010. They only found the 50 acres of ancient ruins this summer because of favorable weather conditions.

    Neapolis, which means ‘new city’ in Greek, was founded in the fifth century B.C. by ancient Greek colonists. It is now known in Tunisia by the name Nabuel, which was built on the site of the old city. A popular tourist destination, it is a modern-day center for Tunisian pottery.

    The city has changed hands several times over the ages, transferring to Carthaginian, Roman and then Arab rule.

    Because of it’s unique history, created by the ebb and flow of colonization and conquest on the shores of the Mediterranean, the Tunisian landscape is home to some of the most impressive examples of Greek, Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine, Arab and European heritage sites. They include the Carthaginian capital of Carthage. The ruins, characterized by their tall Phoenician pillars, are spread across a modern Tunisian city that shares the same name. It became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979.


    'Tsunami-sunk' Roman ruins discovered in Tunisia

    Nabeul (Tunisia) (AFP) - Vast underwater Roman ruins have been discovered off northeast Tunisia, apparently confirming a theory that the city of Neapolis was partly submerged by a tsunami in the 4th century AD.

    "It's a major discovery," Mounir Fantar, the head of a Tunisian-Italian archaeological mission which made the find off the coast of Nabeul, told AFP.

    He said an underwater expedition had found streets, monuments and around 100 tanks used to produce garum, a fermented fish-based condiment that was a favourite of ancient Rome.

    "This discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major centre for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest centre in the Roman world," said Fantar.

    "Probably the notables of Neapolis owed their fortune to garum."

    Fantar's team started work in 2010 in search of the port of Neapolis but only made the breakthrough find of the ruins stretching out over 20 hectares (almost 50 acres) this summer thanks to favourable weather conditions.

    The discovery also proved that Neapolis had been partly submerged by a tsunami on July 21 in 365 AD that badly damaged Alexandria in Egypt and the Greek island of Crete, as recorded by historian Ammien Marcellin.


    Sunk by a Tsunami, Underwater Archaeologists Finally Find the Ruins of the Roman City Neapolis - History

    A team of Tunisian / Italian archaeologists has exhumed, near Nabeul, on the Tunisian coast, the vestiges of Neapolis, a Roman city. For years, archaeologists from the INP National Institute of Tunisian Heritage and the University of Sassari-Oristano in Italy were searching the Gulf of Hammamet, in search of the port of Neapolis.

    A commercial counter

    Thanks to perfect weather conditions, their quest finally came to fruition, divers discovered the vestiges of this Roman city engulfed by the waves in the 4th century BC. They discovered, spreading over twenty hectares, streets, monuments, as well as hundreds of curing vats. Before his Roman domination, Neapolis was a Carthaginian counter, indispensable for commercial relations, which explains the presence of these amphorae. The garum fish meat or fish viscera, fermented for a long time in a large quantity of salt and used as a condiment for the production of many dishes was stored in these containers and then shipped throughout the Mediterranean, and the notables of the city owed it their fortune!

    Victim of an earthquake

    As the Greek historian, Ammien Marcellin v.330-v.395 wrote, an earthquake would be at the origin of the immersion of the port of Neapolis. According to him, the Mediterranean basin was shaken by an earthquake on 21 July 365 AD. The shocks would then have provoked a tsunami that would have partially immersed Neapolis.

    All that remains is to preserve these remains and make them an archaeological reserve.


    ‘Tsunami-sunk’ Roman ruins discovered in Tunisia

    NABEUL, Tunisia — Vast underwater Roman ruins have been discovered off northeast Tunisia, apparently confirming a theory that the city of Neapolis was partly submerged by a tsunami in the 4th century CE.

    “It’s a major discovery,” Mounir Fantar, the head of a Tunisian-Italian archaeological mission which made the find off the coast of Nabeul, told AFP.

    He said an underwater expedition had found streets, monuments and around 100 tanks used to produce garum, a fermented fish-based condiment that was a favorite of ancient Rome.

    “This discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major center for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest center in the Roman world,” said Fantar.

    “Probably the notables of Neapolis owed their fortune to garum.”

    Fantar’s team started work in 2010 in search of the port of Neapolis but only made the breakthrough find of the ruins stretching out over 20 hectares (almost 50 acres) this summer thanks to favorable weather conditions.

    The discovery also proved that Neapolis had been partly submerged by a tsunami on July 21 in 365 AD that badly damaged Alexandria in Egypt and the Greek island of Crete, as recorded by historian Ammien Marcellin.

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    Among the remains discovered are 100 tanks believed to have been used for production of garum – a salty fish condiment. Old street signs and monuments were also discovered.

    They further confirm that Neapolis was among the largest centers for the manufacture of garum in the Roman world.

    Remains of the city of Neapolis in Tunisia. Photo credit: MWC News

    Historical Evidence

    The team of archaeologists led by Mounir Fantar, the head of a Tunisian-Italian archaeological mission, has been working along the coast of Nabeul since 2010. This summer offered the perfect weather conditions for a deep sea exploration, leading to the super discovery.

    “This discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major center for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest center in the Roman world,” Mr. Fantar told AFP.

    He added that the find, which is about 50 acres long, proves that the ancient Roman city had been partly submerged by the tsunami on July 21 in 365 AD.

    Many of the city’s remains are still scattered across Nabeul, an Arabian settlement built on top of Neapolis after the old city collapsed. Many new hotels and homes have been built on top of the city’s remains.

    Archaeologists searching for the remains of Neapolis in Tunisia. Photo credit: MeteoWeb

    Very little information about the site exists in the Roman history because the city supported Carthage instead of the Romans during the Third Punic War.

    Historians suggest that the Romans could have decided to punish Neapolis for its disloyalty by excluding information about it in their records.

    However, there are many other ancient Roman sites dotted around Tunisia, including the El Jem Amphitheatre, La Malga Cisterns, and Dougga. All these sites are must-see attractions, drawing visitors from far and wide.


    Archaeologists Find a Lost Roman City Destroyed by Tsunami in 365 AD (VIDEO)

    In an astonishing discovery archaeologists have found a network of underwater ruins, which once belonged to a flourishing Roman city, known as Neapolis, off the coast of northeast Tunisia.

    The ancient city was washed away by a powerful tsunami some 1,700 years ago. Researchers from the Tunisian National Heritage Institute and the University of Sassari in Italy have been conducting expeditions since 2010 and finally made the discovery.

    The underwater ruins stretch out over 20 hectares and include streets, monuments and about a hundred tanks that were used to produce garum, a fermented fish sauce, which was quite popular in ancient Rome and Greece.

    &ldquoThis discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major center for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest centre in the Roman world,&rdquo Fantar told AFP in an interview.

    Originally founded in the fifth century BC, Neapolis means "new city" in Greek. However, according to ancient records it was partly submerged by a tsunami caused by an earthquake on July 21 in 365 AD.

    "We were looking for the port and underwater prospecting allowed us to recognize other traces, and especially to have the certainty that Neapolis suffered this earthquake in 365 AD,&rdquo Fantar said.

    The video below shows the underwater exploration carried out by the scientists that led to the discovery of the Roman city ruins.

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