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Italian historian locates WW2 steamer below bed of Po river

The Italian San Giorgio boat had sunk in a storm near the mouth of the Po river in Italy while on patrol duty towards the end of WW2.

Italian historian locates WW2 steamer below bed of Po river
The Po is Italy's longest river. Photo: Zveiger/Depositphotos

It's 54 metres long and eight metres wide but somehow the WW2 steamer had not been found since it sunk in a storm on the night of February 12th 1944. 

The German captain (the ship had been taken over by the German 'Kriegsmarine' after the 1943 Armistice of Cassibile, which stipulated Italy's surrender to the Allies) had attempted to maneuver the ship, to shelter from the storm, towards a lighthouse in Pila where a German squadron was waiting. 

The German soldiers abandoned the vessel but the San Giorgio sunk into oblivion. 

“After the rescue operations of the crew and armaments and the recovery of the coal from the hold, the Germans consented that the fishermen of Pila take from the semi-submerged ship all that was removable, so in a couple of months almost all the core structures disappeared ” Luciano Chiereghin, who made the discovery, explained to local daily Rovigo Oggi. “Only the now bare blanket and the cannon, installed in a pitch above the bridge of the foredeck, remained visible,” he added. 

As local fishermen continued to collide with the boat's cannon in the two decades after the war, they eventually requested it be removed. The port authorities in Chioggia, a seaside town south of Venice, eventually blasted the cannon off the boat.

As the delta and the beach spread in the 1970s, the sunken steamer became obscured. Chiereghin and a team of experts analyzed satellite and aerial thermal images of the delta and have been able to locate the ship's outline below the riverbed near one of the banks of Italy's longest river. 

Subsequent magnetic tests confirmed that the lost steamer is situated three to five metres below the Scana Boa beach in Porto Tolle in the northeastern Italian region of Veneto. 

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HISTORY

Italian archaeologists uncover slave room at Pompeii in ‘rare’ find

Pompeii archaeologists said Saturday they have unearthed the remains of a "slave room" in an exceptionally rare find at a Roman villa destroyed by Mount Vesuvius' eruption nearly 2,000 years ago.

Archaeologists in Pompeii who discovered a room which likely housed slaves. 
Archaeologists said the newly-discovered room in Pompeii likely housed slaves charged with maintaining chariots.  Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The little room with three beds, a ceramic pot and a wooden chest was discovered during a dig at the Villa of Civita Giuliana, a suburban villa just a few hundred metres from the rest of the ancient city.

An almost intact ornate Roman chariot was discovered here at the start of this year, and archaeologists said Saturday that the room likely housed slaves charged with maintaining and prepping the chariot.

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“This is a window into the precarious reality of people who rarely appear in historical sources, written almost exclusively by men belonging to the elite,” said Pompeii’s director general Gabriel Zuchtriegel.

Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The “unique testimony” into how “the weakest in the ancient society lived… is certainly one of the most exciting discoveries in my life as an archaeologist,” he said in a press release.

Pompeii was buried in ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, killing those who hadn’t managed to leave the city in time. They were either crushed by collapsing buildings or killed by thermal shock.

The 16-square metre (170-square feet) room was a cross between a bedroom and a storeroom: as well as three beds – one of which was child sized – there were eight amphorae, stashed in a corner.

Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The wooden chest held metal and fabric objects that seem to be part of the harnesses of the chariot horses, and a chariot shaft was found resting on one of the beds.

The remains of three horses were found in a stable in a dig earlier this year.

“The room grants us a rare insight into the daily reality of slaves, thanks to the exceptional state of preservation of the room,” the Pompeii archaeological park said.

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Image: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

Experts had been able to make plaster casts of the beds and other objects in perishable materials which left their imprint in the cinerite — the rock made of volcanic ash — that covered them, it said.

The beds were made of several roughly worked wooden planks, which could be adjusted according to the height of the person who used them.

The webbed bases of the beds were made of ropes, covered by blankets.

While two were around 1.7 metres long, one measured just 1.4 metres, and may therefore have belonged to a child.

The archaeological park said the three slaves may have been a family.

Archaeologists found several personal objects under the beds, including amphorae for private things, ceramic jugs and what might be a chamber pot.

The room was lit by a small upper window, and there are no traces or wall decorations, just a mark believed to have been left by a lantern hung on a wall.

“This incredible new discovery at Pompeii demonstrates that today the archaeological site has become not only one of the most desirable visitor destinations in the world, but also a place where research is carried out and new and experimental technologies are employed,” said Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini.

“Thanks to this important new discovery, our knowledge of the daily life of ancient Pompeians has been enriched, particularly of that element of society about which little is known even today. Pompeii is a model of study that is unique in the world.”

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The excavation is part of a programme launched in 2017 aimed at fighting illegal activity in the area, including tunnel digging to reach artefacts that can be sold on illicit markets.

The Villa of Civita Giuliana had been the target of systematic looting for years. There was evidence some of the “archaeological heritage” in this so-called Slave Room had also been lost to looters, the park said.

Damage by grave robbers in the villa had been estimated so far at almost two million euros ($2.3 million), it added.

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