Antonio J. Talavera studies the recent underwater archaeological discovery of the coral fishing in the port of Sanitja (Menorca, Spain)

Local sandstone stone belonging to a coralera found in the seabed of the port of Sanitja (Menorca, Spain)

Local sandstone stone belonging to a coralera found in the seabed of the port of Sanitja (Menorca, Spain)

The Sanisera Field School organizes underwater archeology works for more than 10 years in Sanitja, a port located where in Roman times was founded the city of Sanisera, in the north of the island.

Recently, in early June during the underwater research, a unique object was discovered. It was proved after a study that it was a very interesting piece, since it is related to the traditional coral fishing.

It is a square stone of local sandstone with 5 holes. We only retain its half. Near this object it was found a long bar of lead. These two components were part of an ancient artifact -coralera-that was used for the extraction of coral from small vessels not strayed too far from the coast.

The mechanism for the coral extraction was composed of two slats or bars of more than a meter each. They were bolted to the outer holes of the quadrangular stone, hold to the axis of a large central ring which was tied by a rope held from the boat. In addition, at each end of the slats, nets were placed to tangle the coral between its strands and pull it out from the rock.

A coralera stone found in Secca di Cala Piombo (Sardinia, Italy)

A coralera stone found in Secca di Cala Piombo (Sardinia, Italy)

Such instruments are more common in Italy and they are known as L’ingegno del corallo (The coral’s ingenuity) and Croce di Sant’Andrea (St. Andrea’s cross).

The most suitable places for coral fishing are the rocky areas with ledges or caves with a constant flow of currents and near the coast. The coralera could extract coral from depths that sometimes could reach 100 meters.

This kind of fishing was used during the 19th century. In Sanitja, we know that there is a traditional fishing hut known as S’Almadrava, built in the late 18th century as a haven for fishers who wanted to fish for tuna in the north of Menorca through a partnership between Menorca and Sardinia.

After discovering these pieces of coralera we considered that S’Almadrava expanded its fishing purposes and that Italian techniques and the instructions for their use were transmitted to the fishermen from Menorca. A good example of this theory is the finding of a similar stone found in Secca di Cala Piombo (Sardinia).

19th century etching showing how the coralera was used

19th century etching showing how the coralera was used

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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