A major exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum is curated by Dr Alexandra Sofroniew, Stipendiary Lecturer in Classical Archaeology

Storms, War and Shipwrecks tells the story of Sicily through the spectacular finds rescued from the sea by underwater archaeologists. For 2500 years Sicily was at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, the place where the great powers of the ancient and medieval eras met and fought. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Normans battled for control, with many of their ships sinking off the island’s rocky shores. Sicily’s azure waters have since become a focus for underwater exploration and dozens of shipwrecks have been recovered over the last 60 years.

Many elements and several years of planning come to fruition in an international loan exhibition such as Storms, War and Shipwrecks. Visitors will discover the wonders of underwater archaeology and the incredible preservation of objects that have spent thousands of years on the sea floor. Come along to spin the wheel of fortune as a Roman merchant, make a wish to Poseidon god of the sea or design an Arab-Norman mosaic - family activities for kids of all ages!' 

More than 200 spectacular and unusual objects are on display, spanning from 1000 BC to AD 1200, to illuminate the movement of peoples, goods and ideas. There are extraordinary bronze battering rams from Roman and Carthaginian warships, for example, whose discovery revealed the exact location of the Battle of the Egadi Islands, fought between the Romans and the Carthaginians on 10 March 241 BC. The digital reconstruction of the battle brings vividly to life the Roman victory that ended the First Punic War and ensured their ultimate domination of the Mediterranean.

Another spectacular discovery on display is an example of a Byzantine ‘flat-pack’ church. The Emperor Justinian (c. 482-565) was a prolific builder of churches, and from Constantinople sent large stone-carrying ships, laden with prefabricated marble church interiors, to sites in Italy and North Africa. Some of these ships never made it to their intended destination and sank during stormy weather. It is stunning to see in the exhibition a reconstructed interior of one of these churches that spent more than 1000 years on the sea-bed.

The exhibition also explores and celebrates the legacy of one of the earliest pioneers of underwater archaeology, British archaeologist Honor Frost (1917–2010), who was instrumental in establishing it as an academic discipline.

"Even the ship's ballast is stunning.'' The Times

The exhibition continues to 25 September 2016. For further information please visit: www.ashmolean.org/exhibitions/storms/