Rome: The Basilica Julia — Is this where Paul was condemned to death?

All visitors to Rome will visit the ancient heart of Rome—the Roman Forum.

View looking southeast at the west end of the Roman Forum. The Basilica of Julia is just to the right of the center of the image—to the left of the multiple columns on the right side of the image.

The Roman Forum was the central civil, commercial, and religious center of Ancient Rome.  Originally, it was a marshy swamp located below the Palatine and Capitoline Hills.  This stagnant area was drained by the Etruscan king Servius Tulius (6th century B.C.) when he constructed the Cloacae Maximus, a large drain system that diverted water into the Tiber river—it still is functioning today!

The Roman Forum grew during the Regnal, Republican, and Imperial Periods—expanding from the Capitoline Hill in the northwest toward the southeast.  Eventually, it was used for political and religious purposes—commercial enterprises were moved to a variety of fora to the north of the Roma Forum.

It fell out of use during the Medieval Period and was used for grazing animals, and as a source of building materials—some of the precious marbles were burned in kilns for lime (sigh).

View looking east over the west end of the Forum. The Basilica of Julia is on the right (south) side of the image.  The Basilica of Julia may well have been the place where Paul was tried and condemned to death—see below.

Only rows of column stubs, flooring, and steps of the large Julia Basilica have been preserved. The central nave is the large rectangular area with green grass—at the far end are three columns from the Temple of Castor and Pollux. To the left (north) of the nave, two long aisles are visible—the view of the southern aisles is blocked by the three arches in the lower right of the image.

The basilica was begun by Julius Caesar in 54 B.C. and completed by Augustus. All totaled, there were 5 versions of a basilica on this site over the centuries!

The Basilica Julia was known as a great center of Roman law, and it contained four law courts.  It is very likely that it was here that the apostle Paul eventually heard the sentence of death pronounced upon himself. (Finegan, p. 223)

The book of Acts ends with Paul under arrest, guarded by a soldier (Acts 28:26) in chains (v. 20) staying in his own “rented quarters” (v. 30) for two years.  Although it is not possible to know if he was tried and released, or merely released, much modern scholarhip believes that he was released (say from A.D. 62—67) and that he was rearrested and tried at the end of Nero’s reign (ca. 67/68).

Was The Basilica Julia
the Place of Paul’s Trials?

Although the final trial, condemnation, and execution of Paul are not mentioned in scripture, tradition and modern scholarship place the execution of Paul near the end of Nero’s reign—ca. A.D. 67/68.  No matter the date, being a Roman Citizen, Paul would have had a right to a trial in the courts of Rome, if not in front of the Emperor himself.  Since the Julia Basilica was the place where trials took place, it is very possible that the Apostle Paul, being a Roman Citizen, was tried and condemned to death by a Roman Court meeting in this structure!

On the other hand, tradition also places the martyrdom of Peter in Rome.  But Peter was not a Roman Citizen and thus his “legal rights,” if any, were very different than those of Paul.


Finegan, Jack. The Archeology of the New Testament: The Mediterranean World of the Early Christian Apostles. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1981.

Colossae — A Webinar Sunday, Feb 27

COLOSSAE

A site with potential future discoveries for New Testament studies is Colossae

Many groups to Turkey don’t even bother to visit, since the ancient mound is virtually untouched, and only scattered remains can be seen on the ground. (BTW My groups always visit Colossae)

Carl Rasmussen Copyright and Contact

Tutku Tours is sponsoring a webinar on Sunday, February 27 entitled “Colossae, Colossians, and Archaeology: Digging for Answers at a Biblical Site,” with Mark Wilson moderating.

Here are the webinar times in US Eastern:

10:00-10:45: “Latest Archaeological Surveys in Colossae,” by Baris Yener, Pamukkale University

10:50-11:35: “How the Excavation of Colossae Could Help Illuminate Paul’s Letter to the Colossians,” by Clint Arnold, Biola University

11:40-12:00: Response: ”Archaeology and Interpreting Colossians,” by Anna Enberg, Lund University

12:00-12:30: Questions and Conversation

To join, go to the Zoom website and enter Meeting ID: 629 730 8579; passcode: tutku

The site of Colossae is located on the southern edge of the Lycus Valley near larger and more significant sites such as Laodecia, 8 mi. [13 km.] to the west, and Hierapolis, 13 mi. [21.5 km.] to the northwest. It is approximately 112 mi. [180 km.] due east of Ephesus.

Paul wrote two letters to Colossae, namely Colossians and Philemon. Paul evidently never visited the city (Col 1:9; 2:1), but rather his colleague Epaphras brought the gospel message to the three cities of the Lycus Valley, that is to Colossae, to Laodicea, and to Hierapolis. However, Paul hoped to visit the city, for he requested Philemon to prepare a lodging for him in anticipation of a visit (Phil 1:23).

The mound (Turkish: hüyük) of Colossae has not been excavated. It was said to have been a large city in the fifth century B.C. but for some reason, it seems to have lost some of its importance by the first century A.D. The reason for this is unclear, for its position on the major road running from east to west, from Pisidian Antioch to Laodicea, and from there to the Aegean Sea remained unchanged. Possibly the new, northwest to southeast route, connecting Pergamum to Laodicea and Laodicea to Attalia (Antalya) via Cibyra and Termessos, which bypassed Colossae, reduced its importance.

Turkey and Greece in May/June 2022

Greetings!   Mary and I invite you to join us for an 18-day  “study tour” to Turkey and Greece—following in the Footsteps of Paul: Turkey, Greece, and Patmos—May 15–Jun1, 2022.  We have a handcrafted itinerary and excellent guides.

In addition,  I will be giving mini-lectures along the way both on the bus and at the sites, drawing from my studies and from the 25+ trips that we have led to Turkey and Greece.  We will relate what we are seeing to the New Testament and the Early Christian Church.  Thus, it is not a mere tour, but a hands-on experience as we study the New Testament and its Greco-Roman background together!

Noteworthy!   We will visit all 7 churches mentioned in Revelation 1-3 and places where 15 of the 27 New Testament books were written to and/or from!  This year we are including a day trip to the Island of Patmos where John received his “revelation” (Revelation 1:9) and a visit to one of the “hanging monasteries” of Meteora.

You will be amazed at what you will be learning along the way and May and early June are perfect—not too hot, not too cool, and the wildflowers are still in bloom in some parts of the country!

We hope you will join us!  Contact us soon if you are interested (2footstepstours@gmail.com).

Our October 2021 Group on the Roman Road that Paul traveled on from Alexandria Troas to Assos — Acts 20:13–14
Exploring the Inner Harbor at Troas — Troas is mentioned five times in the New Testament. It was here, on Paul’s second missionary journey that in a vision he received a “call” to proceed to Europe — Acts 16:8–11
Sister and Brother at the Harbor of Cenchrea — Home of Phoebe, who may have carried the letter from Paul to the Church at Rome — Romans 16:1; Acts 18:18
Studying the Erastus Inscription at Corinth — Yes the Erastus of Romans 16:23

Laodicea: A Massive Frescoed Wall — Something New (at least to me)

After returning from our October 2021 tour Following in the Footsteps of Paul in Turkey and Greece people would ask me “what’s new?” The site of Laodicea in Turkey has been under intensive excavation and restoration for over 20 years and it seems like there is always something new to see. Our visit there in October did not disappoint! (see after this introduction the main reason for my excitement—be sure to see the last image and the site diagram)

One of the places that has recently been under intense excavation and restoration is the North (Sacred) Agora which is located north of the western end of the Syrian Street (the main street of Laodicea—site diagram below).

The Main Entrance to the North (Sacred) Agora — the Propylon

The North (Sacred) Agora is huge, almost 9 acres (3.6 ha.) in size—about equal to 6.5 American Football Fields.  The three main entranceways are from the Syrian Street via monumental entrances.  In the center of the Agora, there were two temples: one dedicated to Athena and the other to Zeus—along with associated altars.

The Agora was initially constructed during the reign of Augustus (r. 27 BC to AD 14). The temples were dismantled during the reign of Constantine (r. 306–337) and a church was constructed at the north end of the Agora.  The earthquake of 494 destroyed parts of the Agora and it completely collapsed in the early seventh–century.

The 850-foot long western pool — partially restored

There are two porticos running north-south—one on the east and one on the west. Parallel to them, there were two long pools.

On the western side of the Agora the excavators have been busy restoring the wall that encloses the agora on the west.

What lies “behind the curtain?”

This is a view looking west at the western Portico of the North Agora.  The outer wall of the west portico is located behind the black fabric.  The erected columns formed the agora side of the portico and a roof ran from the columns to the wall.  This western portico was 980 feet long!

Well, I had to find out what was behind the curtain, and to my surprise . . . .

View looking northwest along the 200 foot long, 25 foot high, Frescoed Wall
Note the people standing at the far end of the wall

There it was—a two hundred foot long, 25 foot high Frescoed Wall! The archaeologists have reconstructed this wall using the rectangular frescoed travertine blocks that were found in the area. The rectangular carved stone blocks appear to be of travertine, covered with fresco painting.

To be frank, I could not believe my eyes with what I was seeing.  I never imagined that ‘mere walls’ would be so elaborately decorated!

A view of a portion of the western boundary wall of the North Agora

A detail of the Frescoed Wall — Note the rich colors and the geometric patterns

This is a detailed view of the stunning colors of a reconstructed arch of the western wall of the North Agora.

So you ask, where is the North Agora?

A map of the northwestern portion of Laodicea

#27 is the Propylon, the entrance to the North Agora, mentioned at the beginning of this post.
The North (Sacred) Agora, where all the above “goodies” are found, is located in the area between #27 and #42 — it has not yet made it onto the map.

For additional images and commentary about the North Agora Click Here.


Who knows what new items await us as we Follow in the Footsteps of Paul for 18 days in May 2022? For information about this trip, Click Here.

I can be contacted at: 2footstepstours@gmail.com

Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta — Final Part

Acts 27:29 And fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak.

As noted previously, the captain, sensing that the ship was approaching land, cast off four “storm anchors” to secure the ship.  Mark Gatt notes, logically, that the ship did not spend the night directly above where the anchors had been cast into the sea (= Ancient Anchors + Artifact below).  He notes that “good seamanship shows us that for the safest anchoring, the length of the anchor rope has to be ten times as long as the depth of the sea.  A longer rope secures better anchorage and allows the ship to better ride the waves in a storm” (p. 104).

This being the case, it seems to me that the ship spent the night riding out the storm at the entrance to Salina Bay, not too far from Qawra Point—see on the map below “Night Anchorage in Storm?” and the following picture.

Acts 27:39 “And when day came, . . .”

The following picture is of the rocky promontory called “Qawra Point.” This may have been the view, in the overcast dim of the dawn while the storm was still raging, that the 276 people on Paul’s ship would have seen.  If the storm anchors would have given way—the ship probably would have crashed into Qawra Point!

View looking west at Qawra Point (see map) that is located on the northern tip of the Qawra Peninsula. To the right of center is squat square tower is visible. This is called “Qawra Tower.”

The Qawra Peninsula forms the northwestern shore of Salina Bay. the Salina Bay is off the left (southwest) edge of this photo. The Qawra Peninsula/Point is what Mark Gatt believes to be the place where the “two seas met,” near which was the reef on which Paul’s ship eventually ran aground (Acts 27:41).

Acts 27:39 And when day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a certain bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could.

Salina Bay, with shallow reefs and some sandy beaches, fits the above description very well.

View looking south-southwest into Salina Bay.

The photo above was taken near where the “Night Anchorage In Storm” is marked on the map above.   This may be the spot where they cut the anchors loose and attempted to head straight into Salina Bay. (see text below)

40 And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders, and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach. 41 But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves. (NASB)

Mark Gatt believes that Paul’s ship ran aground on a sand reef  [now just below the surface] that is in the center of  Salina Bay—and broke apart there (Acts 27:41; text and picture above).  It was from there that the 276 people made their way to safety on the island of Malta from the shipwreck on the reef in Salina Bay.

You are invited to join us on our April/May 2022 following Paul from Shipwreck on Malta to Martyrdom in Rome Click Here.

For a complete discussion of the shipwreck of Paul see Mark GattPaulus The Shipwreck 60 A.D.  Second edition, 2017.  Malta: Allied Publications.

For a good discussion of the shipwreck, ancient anchors, etc.,  and a vigorous interaction with the views of Robert Cornuke, see Gordon Franz “Does the ‘Lost Shipwreck of Paul’ Hold Water?  Or, Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul’s Shipwreck Been discovered on Malta?”

Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta — Casting The Anchors and Dinghy

Acts 27:27 . . . about midnight the sailors began to surmise that 1they were approaching some land. 28 And they took soundings, and found it to be twenty fathoms; and a little farther on they took another sounding and found it to be fifteen fathoms. 29 And fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak.

The captain and sailors on Paul’s ship found themselves in a very dangerous situation that called for a desperate measure—the casting of the “storm anchors” into the raging sea.

Please note, that under normal circumstances (relatively calm harbors) they would use “composed anchors” to secure the ship.

Two Composed Anchors on display in the Hecht Archaeological Museum in Haifa, Israel. Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

A “Composed Anchor” is made out of a large chiseled stone and has at least three holes in it. A rope was tied in the upper hole—to lower and hoist the anchor—and wooden stakes were inserted into the two lower holes in order to grip the sea bottom. These anchors weighed between 45 and 170 pounds and could be lowered and hoisted by one or two seamen.  This type of anchor was used from the late second millennium BC on.  Please note that this type of anchor would not be able to secure the large Alexandrian Grain Ship in a raging sea!

Acts 27:40 “And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea.

These four anchors were very large and were “storm anchors.”  The “Isis – Sarapis” anchor stock found by Mark Gatt would be an example of this (as would the 3.5-ton anchor stock discovered in the same general area).

A replica of the “Isis – Sarapis” anchor discovered by Mark Gatt.

In this area please note that five “storm anchor” stocks were found that weighed 200, 489, 117, 500 pounds and the 3.5-ton stock plus the massive “Isis Sarapis” stock (Gatt p. 98 citing Scicluna).  These types of anchors were very heavy and were the last hope of securing a ship during a storm—both because of their weight and especially being fastened to the sea bottom.  But, once the storm anchors were cast overboard, and they were once secured on the seabed, they could not be lifted back on board, so they had to be abandoned!  As Acts 27:40 says, “And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea.

On the map note “Ancient Anchors.” This is where Scicluna noted all the relevant anchor stocks.  They had been abandoned as described above.

Acts 27:29 “they cast four anchors from the stern

The bow of a cargo ship with two “storm anchors” secured in place.

On this model the huge storm anchors are lashed onto the bow of the boat, ready to be deployed in a storm.  Under normal circumstances, the anchors would be lowered from the bow (see photo above) to secure the ship.  This would mean that the bow would be facing the oncoming waves because that would be the best way to deflect the waves and to ride out the storm.

But Acts 27:29 says they were lowered from the stern!  Gatt graphically describes how he thinks they were lowered and then the sailor had to quickly run, with ropes in hand, to secure them to the stern of the boat.  Gatt credits the wisdom of the captain in doing this, for this meant that the bow of the boat was facing the shore and it would be much easier to run it aground—once the time had come to abandon the storm anchors!

Acts 27:29 And fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the 1rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. 30 And as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship, and had let down the ship’s boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the aropes of the ship’s boat, and let it fall away

A sarcophagus that has a sailing ship and its “dinghy” engraved in bas relief.  The projection on the bow of the boat, on the left, may be a SSS sail, OR it might be a representation of a “storm anchor” with its anchor stock.

In the archaeological museum in Sinope Turkey, on the Black Sea, is a sarcophagus that has a sailing ship and its “dinghy” engraved in bas relief.  Behind it there is a small vessel, with a sail, that may be in tow.  Might this be a “dinghy” like the one described in Acts 27:30?

The Apostle Paul, and companions, may have sailed on such vessels. Note the steering oars at the stern of the ship, the billowing mainsail and what looks like a jib (Gatt, p. 18 calls this an “artemon”) near the bow of the boat—or could this represent a storm anchor with its anchor stock? Even the guy-lines are visible in the image.  An inscription on the sarcophagus reads: “Cornelius Arrianus is lying here. His age is 60.”

A line drawing of the bas relief on the sarcophagus in the museum in Sinope.

Alternatively, note that the “dinghy” has a  billowing sail and thus might be a second ship that is being depicted as being in the distance—and thus is smaller than the nearer vessel.


For information on our April/May 2022 trip to Malta, Sicily, and Italy Click Here.

For a complete discussion of the shipwreck of Paul see Mark GattPaulus The Shipwreck 60 A.D.  Second edition, 2017.  Malta: Allied Publications.

For a good discussion of the shipwreck, ancient anchors, etc.,  and a vigorous interaction with the views of Robert Cornuke, see Gordon Franz “Does the ‘Lost Shipwreck of Paul’ Hold Water?  Or, Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul’s Shipwreck Been discovered on Malta?”

Paul’s Shipwreck on Malta — Part 4 — “sensed they were approaching land”

In the book of Acts we read that after spending fourteen days in a storm at sea, at midnight

Acts 27:27  . . . the sailors sensed they were approaching land.  28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.

What is a “sounding?”  A “sounding” is where sailors lower weights into the water and let them sink to the bottom to measure the depth of the water.

Ancient Sounding Weights from the Mediterranean Coast of Israel. On display in the museum near the archaeological site of Tel Dor, Israel.

Sounding weights served to measure the depth of the water and to check the type of sediment at the sea bottom. This was done in order to identify anchoring areas as well as fishing grounds. Their upper part is perforated for the attachment of a sounding line, and on the bottom is a cavity (tallow cup), smeared with grease, for sampling the sea bottom.

 

found it was ninety feet deep”

28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep.

Note that Gatt found his Isis – Sarapis anchor stock in about 118 feet of water—which fits reasonably well with the Acts 27:28 passage, as do the location of the anchor stocks and artifacts found by Scicluna (on the map above = “Ancient Anchors + Artifacts).”

Acts 27:38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.

This would also have been the are where some (much) of the cargo was tossed into the sea to lighten the ship—but not the actual place of the shipwreck.

The TWO Ships that Paul Traveled On

A model of a Roman Merchant Ship of the first century A.D. that is on display in the Malta Maritime Museum.

Roman Cargo ships were rounded vessels with a forward-leaning fore–post, a high stern and a high bent stern post that was often decorated in the form of a swan’s neck.  To view a large, but less than full, modern reconstruction of such a coastal cargo ship see Here.

It should be remembered that on his way from Caesarea to Rome Paul traveled on two ships.

The first was a “coastal vessel:”

Acts 27:2 We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.

This was evidently a NOT a large Alexandrian Grain ship, but rather a smaller vessel (like the model above) that carried goods from port to port stopping at many ports along the way.  Note that Paul’s vessel stopped at Sidon before proceeding to Myra (port Andriace).

It was there at Myra/Andriace that the party boarded a second ship—a much larger “Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy” (Acts 27:6)—the one that carried grain PLUS 276 passengers and was headed straight to Italy!  Some of the Alexandrian Grain Ships were at least 180 feet long and could carry tons of cargo: wheat, oil, wine, grinders, statues, etc.!  This is the type that was shipwrecked on Malta.

Although many ancient shipwrecks have been discovered, I don’t think the remains of an Alexandrian Grain Ship has been found.  All the discovered wrecks are vessels that plied the ports along the coastlines and the various islands.

Salina Bay — The Actual Place of Paul’s Shipwreck? — Part 3

Mark Gatt has suggested that Salina Bay, just to the east of Saint Paul’s Bay, is actually the place where the ship carrying the Apostle Paul, and 275 other people, ran aground and was wrecked (see below for bibliography).  Why is this?

Note Salina Bay, just the right (east) of the center of the map and also “Ancient Anchors + Artifacts.” Click on the map to Enlarge and/or Download.

To begin, Gatt writes:

Diving in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Salvino Anthony Scicluna mapped various artifacts discovered around the Maltese Islands, but he knew of so many artefacts discovered in a concentration outside Salina Bay, that he believed that this could be a shipwreck site and in fact St Paul’s shipwreck site in 60 AD. (Gatt 97)

On the map above I have noted the place of the ‘concentration of artifacts and anchors,’ mentioned by Scicluna and Gatt as “Ancient Anchors + Artifacts.”  This concentration included artifacts, amphoras, and 5 lead Roman Anchor Stocks.  This led Scicluna to think that this was the site of a shipwreck.  Among the five anchor stocks is the largest Roman Anchor Stock ever discovered. It weighs over 3.5 tons and is 13.5 feet long!  It is now on display in the Malta Maritime Museum (picture below).

The largest Roman Anchor Stock ever discovered that weighs over 3.5 tons and is 13.5 feet long!

Then, on 24 April 2005, Mark Gatt, diving in 118 feet of water, near the ‘Scicluna concentration,’ discovered a large anchor stock that was inscribed with the names of two Egyptian deities: Isis and Sarapis.  This discovery was especially noteworthy because inscribed anchor stocks are rare (but see also Hera here).  This anchor stock was about 7 feet long and weighed about 1 ton—very large indeed!

The Isis — Sarapis anchor stock discovered by Mark Gatt just north of Salina Bay. Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This is a detail of the word Isis, that appears in high relief, on this anchor stock.

So what is an “Anchor Stock?”  See the following labeled picture with the typical anchor parts: flukes, shank, stock, and rope.

This is a reconstruction of a typical anchor from the Roman Period. All the parts of this “ancient anchor” are modern except the lead “Stock.”

The “Flukes” are the parts of the anchor, usually wooden and sometimes tipped with copper, that dig into the bottom of the sea. At the top of the wooden shank (right) a rope connects the anchor to the ship. The “stock” is made out of lead and often has a wood core. It helps the anchor to sink and helps to position the anchor so that the “flukes” are perpendicular to, and dig into, the sea bottom—thus securing the ship.  Very few wooden anchors have been preserved—but see below!

Mark Gatt, the discoverer of the “Isis – Serapis” anchor stock posing at a replica of the original anchor.

This replica was constructed for, and used in, the video that present Mark Gatt’s theories about the shipwreck.

Summary:

Acts 27:29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. . . .
38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea. . . .
27:40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach.

Thus the area where the large anchor stocks, amphoras, and other artifacts were found (marked as “Ancient Anchors + Artifacts” on the above map) fits very well with the events described in Acts 27:28 and 38 as proposed by Mark Gatt—but not the place of the actual shipwreck (as Scicluna)!

This is a full-scale model of what the “Isis — Serapis” anchor would have looked like.

The above replica was produced and used in a video that was produced by Mark Gatt.  It is now on display at the Wignacourt Museum in Rabat, Malta.


One prominent exception to the general rule that wooden anchors have not been preserved is the “One Armed Anchor” that was discovered at the site of the Ma’agan Mikhael Shipwreck off the coast of Israel.  The 41-foot ship, from the 5th century B.C. [dated by the pottery], was very well preserved because it was buried deep in the sand and thus protected from aerobic conditions that would have degraded the wood.  Among the finds was a “One-Armed Anchor.”

A One Armed Wooden Anchor from the Fifth Century B.C.    Note the totally preserved wooden shank, stock, and fluke!  The copper on the tip of the fluke is also original! Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This one armed oak anchor was found on the starboard side of the bow of the shipwreck, attached to two ropes, the main anchor rope and trip rope.  Lead was inserted inside the anchor stock to ensure that the anchor would sink to the sea bottom with the arm downwards.  The anchor’s copper nail protected the wood from erosion.

All the wood in the anchor is original!  After excavation, it was soaked in polyethylene glycol for 7-years to help preserve it.  There is a modern metal support on the left curve support the anchor fluke.

To view nine images of the ship as displayed in the Hecht Museum in Haifa, click here.


More on Paul’s Shipwreck in the next post.


For a complete discussion of the shipwreck of Paul see Mark Gatt, Paulus The Shipwreck 60 A.D.  Second edition, 2017.  Malta: Allied Publications.

For a good discussion of the shipwreck, ancient anchors, etc.,  and a vigorous interaction with the views of Robert Cornuke, see Gordon Franz “Does the ‘Lost Shipwreck of Paul’ Hold Water?  Or, Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul’s Shipwreck Been discovered on Malta?”

Ship Names — Paul’s Shipwreck—Part 3

In two previous posts I shared some images and thoughts on anchor stocks that are in the Malta Maritime Museum.  The final anchor stock that I want to mention is one that actually has Isis—the name of an Egyptian Deity—inscribed on it.

The name “Isis” is clearly visible on the left side of this anchor stock.

This is a detail of the name Isis, that appears in high relief, on this anchor stock.

Isis, an Egyptian deity, was a name (among others) commonly used for ships during the Roman Era.  There was a very famous ship called Isis that is mentioned by the ancient author Lucian that was about 180 feet long, 45 feet wide (beam), and 45 feet deep—I am not saying that this is an anchor stock from that ship, but it is interesting that the name appears here.

In his book Πλοἶον ἢ Εὐχαί (“The Ship, or The Wishes”) the sophist Lucian described the Isis when he saw it in Athens’ seaport Piraeus:

I say, though, what a size that ship was! 180 feet long, the man said, and something over a quarter of that in width; and from deck to keel, the maximum depth, through the hold, 44 feet. And then the height of the mast, with its huge yard; and what a forestay it takes to hold it! And the lofty stern with its gradual curve, and its gilded beak, balanced at the other end by the long rising sweep of the prow, and the figures of her name-goddess, Isis, on either side. As to the other ornamental details, the paintings and the scarlet topsail, I was more struck by the anchors, and the capstans and windlasses, and the stern cabins. The crew was like a small army. And they were saying she carried as much corn as would feed every soul in Attica for a year. And all depends for its safety on one little old atomy of a man, who controls that great rudder with a mere broomstick of a tiller!

(Wikipedia Isis (ship)

Please note that from Malta Paul sailed to Rome on:

Acts 28:11    After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux.
[Two Greek Deities]

In addition, I found another inscribed anchor stock in the Museo Nazionale in Reggio, this time with the name Hera on it.

An anchor stock in the Museo Nazionale in Reggio (Italy) with the name Hera on it.

Hera was believed to be the wife of the chief deity ZeusReggio is located in southern Italy, on the coast facing Sicily.  Reggio is considered to be ancient Rhegium.

Acts 28:11    After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island [=Malta]. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli.

Detail of the name “Hera”—in reverse order—on the anchor stock.

To view images of items on display in the Malta Maritime Museum check here.

The Largest Anchor Stock — Paul’s Shipwreck—Part 2

In my earlier post, I wrote of the 11 Anchor Stocks that are currently in storage at the Malta Maritime Museum—and I described how they worked.

Among the 11 is the largest ancient anchor stock ever to be discovered!

This is the largest anchor stock ever found — near Salina Bay where the ship that Paul was on was wrecked.

This anchor stock weighs over 5,500 lbs [2,500 kg.] and is 13 ft. 6 in. long [4.1 m.].  A careful look at the left end of the anchor shows that it was not solid metal, but had a metal shell that encased a wood “soul.” (see below for what is an “anchor stock”)

Compare the size of the woman to that of the anchor stock — 13 ft. 36 in. long!

Gordon Franz (see below) quotes the Museum Archaeological Report that this “enormous Roman anchor stock [was] found lying on the seabed 120 feet below the surface 300 yards off Qawra Point….” [CR=near Salina Bay]. It is dated from “the second half of the second century BC to the middle of the first century AD.” It “… most likely came from an Alexandrian grain ship” [CR: like the one Paul was being transported on? Acts 27:6, 27–29].  It should be remembered that the large “Alexandrian” grain ships could be 180 feet long! — Paul traveled on two Alexandrian grain ships (Acts 27:6; 28:11)

It was discovered near Salina Bay, on the NE coast of Malta.  This is near two of the bays that are “traditional” candidates for the site of the shipwreck of Paul (Acts 27—28:10).


For a good discussion of the shipwreck, ancient anchors, etc.,  and a vigorous interaction with the views of Robert Cornuke, see Gordon Franz “Does the ‘Lost Shipwreck of Paul’ Hold Water?  Or, Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul’s Shipwreck Been discovered on Malta?”