Cap del Vol and Cala Cativa shipwrecks, Spain

Excavation campaign, Cap de Vol wreck. ©Museu d'Arqueologia de Catalunya


The shipwrecks of Cap del Vol and Cala Cativa were studied in the project: Study of trade, export and distribution networks of wine between the first and second centuries BC. I II d.C. In the Conventus Tarraconensis.  The project studies a series of shipwrecks that sank while transporting wine produced in the Conventus Tarraconensis (from Valence to southern France), between the first century BC and II AC.  Cap del Vol and Cala Cativa are located in the municipality of Port de la Selva, in the North of Catalonia. The wine was packaged in amphoras of the type Pascual 1, which were produced during the second half of the first century BC, revealing some of the earliest significant exports of wine from the Catalan region.

Cap del Vol was a fifteen-meter-long trading ship that sank while transporting wine to  Narbo, carrying 200 to 300 Pascual 1 amphoras produced in Baetulo and dating from the end of the first century BC. The wreck was pillaged in the 60s and 70s, and although most of the cargo had disappeared, the naval architecture remains. Therefore it was possible to carry out the excavation and study the shipbuilding, which revealed the ship was built in the same area as the wine and amphoras, indicating a tradition of shipbuilding in this area as well.

Thanks to the excavations carried out in Cala Cativa shipwreck we know that it belongs to the same construction family as Cap de la Vol. Although it is a ship of smaller dimensions, about 10 meters of length, and with an older chronology, from 40-30 BC. Cala Cativa also sank while transporting to Narbo a cargo of wine in Pascual 1 amphoras.

The ICTINEU 3 has helped in the excavation campaigns. ©ICTINEU submarins SL


In these two wrecks the latest technology in ROVS and AUVS was tested, with the intention to carry out excavations at greater depth and establish working protocols between archaeologists and underwater robotics engineers.

Furthermore, the project used a submarine Ictineu 3 that has capacity of 3 people and 2 days of underwater autonomy. Therefore, a working protocol for documentation has been established with this submarine to complete research without damaging the fragile remains of underwater heritage. The Ictineu 3 can dive freely to 1,100 meters deep.

Cala Cativa excavation ©Museu d'Arqueologia de Catalunya


The project encourages responsible and non-intrusive public access to underwater cultural heritage and increases the public awareness, appreciation and protection of heritage with the following initiatives, among others:

  • A temporary exhibition inaugurated on March 30, 2017, in the Archaeological Museum of Barcelona.
  • Conferences organized with the collaboration of the nautical club of the Port de la Selva and the Mar d'Amunt association.
  • Scuba guided visits to the shipwrecks during the archaeological excavation works in collaboration with FECDAS and the Mar d’Amunt association.
  • Protection and vigilance of the sites located in Port de la Selva in collaboration with GEAS unit and the Mar d’Amunt association.
  • Realization of a documentary in collaboration with The Museum of Badalona, The CASC, Cressi, Inbluefilms.


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