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Bajo de la Campana

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The submerged rock of La Laja, better known as Bajo de la Campana, is a limestone formation of about 100 square metres which, from a depth of 24 metres, almost reaches the surface of the sea. It has been a real danger for ships for millennia and has caused many vessels in the immediate vicinity to be shipwrecked. The archaeological site of Bajo de la Campana was discovered in the '50s in the 20th century when divers, working to remove junk from the seabed, came across the archaeological remains. In the 1970s, the former Board for Underwater Archaeology in Cartagena, headed by Julio Mas, carried out several archaeological campaigns documenting the existence of several shipwrecks.

Since then, and until 2007, no underwater work was carried out, although the importance of the site remains of interest for the typological study of ceramic materials that has concluded that these belonged to three different chronological periods. The oldest material dates back to Phoenician times and includes ceramics, elephant tusks, and tin ingots that date from between 625 and 575 BCE based on the Vuillemot R-1 and Cintas 268 amphora remains. The second group of ceramics consists of PE-17 Ebussitan and Greco-Italic-type amphorae, in addition to ceramic tableware from the Campania A region, which date the wreck to the second half of the 2nd century BCE. Lastly, the third group is made up of the remains of Dressel-type 7-11, 14 and 20 amphorae from Andalusia, the most recent stamped with a seal with the letters SCLT, dating them to the second quarter of the 2nd century CE.

The Bajo de la Campana archaeological project began in 2007 and lasted until 2011 and was co-directed by Juan Pinedo and Mark Polzer who carried out the excavation, documentation and the study of the east side of this underwater site, discovering thousands of items, both whole and in pieces. To carry out the operation, the then Ministry of Culture signed a partnership agreement with the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) of the A & M University of Texas. Most items can be linked to the ship's cargo and included both raw materials as well as manufactured goods. The most important part of the load consisted of over 50 elephant tusks, ingots of tin and copper, and almost one ton of lead ore. Manufactured products included amphorae that probably contained wine (and other contents), ceramic items including plates and bowls, ceramic tableware and kitchenware, jugs, tripod mortars and other luxury items such as perfume for ointments, decorated ostrich eggshells, ivory dagger handles, bronze furniture and other objects that denoted prestige and rank.

Today, research on this rich and diverse cargo from the Phoenician wreck is shedding light on different aspects of the colonial and trade network established by this people in the western Mediterranean, and is doing the same for the research on interactions between the indigenous peoples and these Phoenician traders and settlers. These types of pottery and luxury items appear in burial sites in both indigenous and Phoenician necropoli, revealing not only the profound cultural transformation of indigenous societies influenced by the Phoenician settlements, but also the impact these societies had on the colonisers.

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