Sea: Mediterranean, finds at Egadi area date back the history of navigation 2000 years earlier


A recent discovery in the Egadi Islands suggests our early ancestors went to sea  2000 years earlier than previously thought. Inside the Grotta del Tuono at Marettimo, remains of a meal consisting of a deer mandible and various molluscs were found which have revealed how humans used to sail in the Mediterranean in search of food and new lands already 8600 years ago, that is towards the end of the Mesolithic and not the Neolithic as was believed until now. The study, conducted by a team of researchers from ENEA and the Universities of Rome "La Sapienza", Palermo, Trieste and Salento was published in the prestigious journal “Earth Science Reviews” and “National Geographic”.

Furthermore, the in situ and radio-carbon geomorphological analyses [1] by ENEA researcher Fabrizio Antonioli showed that humans reached the island of Marettimo in a different paleogeographic context.

"According to the surveys, during the last glaciation about 20 thousand years ago, Sicily was connected to the islands of Favignana and Levanzo by a 10 to 14 km long plain, while a narrow channel separated it from Marettimo, a destination most sought after by hunters because rich in game, unlike the other two much lower and woodless islands”, Fabrizio Antonioli at the ENEA Laboratory for Climate Modeling and Impacts explained.

"The dating of the remains of the deer - identical to that of the limpets and found moreover at the same sand level- has enabled us to prove that the hunters sailed from Favignana to Marettimo in search of food. Later on, the rise of the sea level isolated the Egadi archipelago and also the Grotta del Tuono, the place of the discovery, which today is about 30 meters above sea level and about 55 from that of 8560 years ago, and accessible only by mountain climbing ", Antonioli concluded.

In addition to ENEA and the Universities, the Egadi Marine Protected Area, the geological museum "G.G. Gemmellaro ”and the Superintendency of the Sea contributed to the study. The discovery of the deer mandible was possible thanks to the mountain guide Jacopo Merizzi during a survey of the promontory of Punta Troia in Marettimo, while the analyses were integrated with the studies of Sebastiano Tusa, an internationally renowned archaeologist who died recently in a plane crash in Ethiopia.

In consideration of the erosion phenomena and rising sea level, scholars confide that the finds will be adequately preserved, waiting to reveal new pages of the history of "Mare Nostrum".


For more information please contact:

Fabrizio Antonioli, ENEA - Laboratory Climate Modelling and Impacts,

Link to the article Earth Science Reviews:

Link to the video with images of Marettimo bynthe drone and Grotta del Tuono:



[1] CEDAD Lecce

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