Two Ancient Stone Anchors Were Just Discovered Off The Coast Of Sicily

Published November 27, 2023
Updated November 28, 2023

The anchors are believed to date from 800 to 480 B.C.E. and are expected to be recovered from the water soon.

Ancient Anchors Sicily

Facebook/Soprintendenza del Mare/Regione SicilianaThe two anchors are slightly different, though both are about two feet long.

Ever wonder what historical relics lurk beneath the waves? In Italy, a citizen recently reported the existence of two ancient stone anchors off the coast of Syracuse, Sicily, which a diving team then thrillingly located.

“This type of intervention confirms the importance of collaboration between public agencies and law enforcement agencies in safeguarding cultural heritage,” Regional Councillor for Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity Francesco Paolo Scarpinato said, according to Arkeo News. “Also of great value is the collaboration of private individuals that, over the years, has casually led to the identification of numerous artifacts, with the only common goal of recovering and enhancing our cultural heritage.”

As Arkeo News reports, the citizen’s account was investigated through a collaborative effort between the Maritime Superintendency of the Sicilian Region and the Diving Unit of the Guardia di Finanza in Messina. During their investigation, the divers found the two anchors at a depth of about 50 feet just off the shore of San Lorenzo beach near Syracuse.

Though both are just over two feet long and estimated to be from the Greek Archaic Period — between 800 and 480 B.C.E. — the stone anchors are slightly different from each other. One is a “a three-holed lithic anchor” while the other is an “ovoid-shaped anchor” with a distal hole.

Divers Finding Anchors

Facebook/Soprintendenza del Mare/Regione SicilianaThe discovery of the stone anchors off the coast of Sicily was thanks to a citizen who reported their existence.

The divers additionally searched an area of 2,600 square feet across the sea floor nearby in search of other historical relics, although no other finds have yet been reported. As of publication, the anchors themselves have not been recovered from the sea floor, though divers plan to raise them so that they can be studied and placed in a local museum.

They seem to be indicative of Sicily’s ancient history. As World History Encyclopedia reports, ancient Sicily was a fascinating mix of different cultures. Syracuse was founded as a Corinthian colony in the 8th century B.C.E. and was later established as a capital by Sicilian tyrant Gelon in the 5th century B.C.E. From that point, Syracuse became one of the largest urban centers in the ancient Greek world, second only to Athens.

Temple Of Hera

AdiJapan/Wikimedia CommonsSicily is full of ancient history, including this 5th century B.C.E. Temple of Hera.

(Though, as World History Encyclopedia notes, the population of Syracuse eventually exceeded that of Athens.)

Athens, a maritime power of the age, attempted to make inroads into Sicily and Syracuse in particular in the 5th century. But Syracuse was able to repel Athenian forces and eventually became an ally of Sparta against Athens in the Peloponnesian War.

As such, the stone anchors found off the coast of Syracuse are one small part of Sicily’s fascinating history in the ancient world. What role they played exactly is still unknown — did they belong to merchant ships, military vessels, or something else entirely? — but hopefully further study can shed some light on this question.

In the meantime, people across the world should follow the example of the citizen who first reported the anchor. If you stumble across an ancient object, be sure to alert the proper authorities so that these historical treasures can be recovered and shared with the world.

After reading about the stone anchors found off the coast of Sicily, discover the story of Neopolis, the sunken Roman city discovered off the coast of Tunisia. Or, read about the possible discovery of the “lost” temple of Hercules off the coast of Spain.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Cara Johnson
A writer and editor based in Charleston, South Carolina and an assistant editor at All That's Interesting, Cara Johnson holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Washington & Lee University and an M.A. in English from College of Charleston and has written for various publications in her six-year career.