Caligula's Barges and the Renaissance Origins of Nautical Archaeology Under Water
Archaeology - Nautical Archaeology - Social Sciences
8.5 x 11, 288 pp.
7 b&w photos. line art. map. Bib. Index.
Pub Date: 12/04/2016
Ed Rachal Foundation Nautical Archaeology Series
Price:        $65.00 s

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Caligula's Barges and the Renaissance Origins of Nautical Archaeology Under Water

John M. McManamon

Sometime around 1446 A.D., Cardinal Prospero Colonna commissioned engineer Battista Alberti to raise two immense Roman vessels from the bottom of the lago di Nemi, just south of Rome. By that time, local fishermen had been fouling their nets and occasionally recovering stray objects from the sunken ships for 800 years. Having no idea of the size of the objects he was attempting to recover, Alberti failed.

For most of the next 500 years, various attempts were made to recover the vessels. Finally, in 1928, Mussolini ordered the draining of the lake to remove the vessels and place them on the lake shore. In 1944, the ships burned in a fire that was generally blamed on the Germans.

John M. McManamon connects these attempts at underwater archaeology with the Renaissance interest in reconstructing the past in order to affect the present. Nautical and marine archaeologists, as well as students and scholars of Renaissance history and historiography, will appreciate this masterfully researched and gracefully written work.

JOHN M. McMANAMON is a professor of history at Loyola University in Chicago. He is the author of numerous texts in Renaissance studies.

What Readers Are Saying:

"This book is for anyone who is ready for a thorough immersion in the sacred waters of the lake of Nemi, where the mysterious barges of Caligula once lay — a masterly work of scholarship written with the ease of a novel, which will bring the reader to the crossroads of archeological adventure, the history of technology and the unparalleled greatness of Renaissance culture.” — Maurizio Bettini

"The Renaissance Origins of Nautical Archaeology under Water is a fascinating tale… the earliest forays into the field of shipwreck archaeology. It is a story of the quest by scholars and engineers of Renaissance Italy to locate, recover, and study the sunken remains of two enormous wooden vessels built in the 1st century A.D. by the Roman emperor Caligula on tiny Lake Nemi southeast of Rome. In this book historian and archaeologist John M. McManamon, S.J. shows us how a new spirit of inquiry led some of the greatest minds of the 15th and 16th centuries to locate and mine these wrecks for knowledge of Classical architecture and shipbuilding practices. In their attempts to salvage the Nemi wrecks, engineers like Battista Alberti, Francesco de Marchi, and Mariano Taccola experimented with new techniques and technologies for exploring the underwater world. And by doing so, they and their scholar-patrons paved the way for the modern sciences of underwater exploration and nautical archaeology.
McManamon’s book immerses us deeply in the social, technological, and maritime world of Renaissance Italy. It follows the efforts of humanist scholars, engineers, wealthy patrons, church officials, and a host of others who, over the course of two centuries, repeatedly attempted to reclaim two lost relics the Classical world which lie tantalizingly beyond their reach beneath the murky waters of Lake Nemi. In telling this story McManamon leads us to a better understanding of how the efforts of these Renaissance scholars laid the groundwork for modern inquiries into underwater exploration and the archaeological study of ancient seafaring." — Kevin Crisman, Professor, Nautical Archaeology Program, Anthropology Department, Texas A&M University.

“an engrossing tale . . . wide ranging examination of 15th- and 16th-century Renaissance Italy. The book immerses us deeply in the intellectual, social, technological, and maritime world of Colonna, Alberti, De Marchi, and their contemporaries. . . . Dr. John McManamon, S.J. and Texas A&M University Press are to be congratulated on this fine book.” —INA Quarterly

"This book is highly recommended." —The Northern Mariner / Le marin du nord


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