Aéropostale was a French airline based in the Montaudran district of Toulouse. Founded in 1918 by Pierre-Georges Latécoère, it was initially known as Société des lignes Latécoère, and then Compagnie générale d’entreprises aéronautiques (1921–1927), before settling on Compagnie générale aéropostale (or Aéropostale for short) when Marcel Bouilloux-Lafont took over the airline in 1927. Known best for its airborne postal services, the company also carried passengers. Encountering financial difficulties, the airline went into compulsory liquidation in 1931 and its assets were redeployed by the French government to launch a new company in 1933 called Air France.


Amphorae were two-handled ceramic vases used in classical antiquity as containers for transporting by river and sea various goods, in particular wine, olive oil and various types of garum (fish sauce). Some amphorae, in particular those used for wine and garum, were made watertight by pouring liquid pitch into the container to coat the inside surface with an impermeable film. Amphorae were ubiquitous and often discarded once their contents had been consumed. Sometimes they were recycled as, for example, piping, hardcore or even as coffins for infants. Similar to all pottery, amphorae were fragile and broke easily; however the ceramic material itself is all but indestructible. Research into the evolution of amphora design has resulted in a classification by type but also a corresponding chronology. In the typology of amphorae, the various designs are classified by name and number. The names often reference the academics and researchers who determined the chronology (Dressel, Pascual, Keay) or the place of manufacture (Etruscan, Gallic). Amphorae first appeared in the West during the eighth century BC. Often painted, engraved or printed marks or inscriptions can be seen on certain parts of an amphora (handle, neck, belly or body). They might provide information on the amphora’s manufacturer, contents, capacity, origin or owner, or indicate a quantity, date, merchant or organization. The most famous of all the typologies was developed by Heinrich Dressel, an eminent epigraphist of the late nineteenth century. He based his system on amphorae found in Rome. Dressel’s ‘synoptic table’ continues to be used as the basis for all subsequent amphora typologies.


Information science applied to archaeology (from the term ‘informatics’).


An archaeological artefact is any man-made object that was discovered during archaeological excavations. Along with ecofacts, artefacts are part of what we understand as archaeological remains.

Augustan Age

Augustus was born Gaius Octavius on 23 September 63 BC in Rome. Initially called Octavia and later Octavian, by the time of his death in Nola on 19 August 14 he bore the title Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus.


Ballast is the name given to heavy objects loaded onto a vessel (boat, airship, etc.) for the purpose of moving its centre of gravity or increasing its mass (inertia, weight).

Bronze Age

The Bronze Age was a period of protohistory and history which was characterized by the abundant use of bronze. Bronze is the generic name for alloys made with copper and tin. Today it is generally accepted that the period succeeded the Copper or Chalcolithic Age and preceded the Iron Age in the regions of the world where such categories apply. As with other prehistoric periods, the chronological boundaries of the Bronze Age vary greatly depending on the cultural and geographical areas under consideration. As a rule of thumb, in the regions of the world where it is particularly significant and researched (Near East, Europe, Asia), the Bronze Age extends across a period of 2,000 years, from 3000 to 1000 BC, albeit with substantial variations among the areas concerned.

Cartridge pouch

Leather-covered receptacle used by soldiers to carry cartridges and other small objects for maintaining their weapons.


A wooden boat is said to be clinker-built when the external planks of its hull overlap each other like slates on a roof. In old books it is sometimes written clincher-built.


A coastline is an imaginary line which indicates the highest point of the sea at high water springs.


A concretion is the accumulation of various chemical and physical matter which hardens through a chemical reaction with an oxidizing agent.

Conning tower

Structure situated on the upper part of a submarine or on the deck of a ship. A submarine’s conning tower also serves as the bridge when the vessel is at the surface. On a ship, it protects seamen and the navigation devices from the weather.


Dendrology is the science of studying trees. When applied to archaeology, it becomes the study of wooden remains produced by humans or dendroarchaeology.
From the living tree to the finished object, wood can be defined in three ways: a biological temporal indicator of ecology and climate history, a raw material exploited in a natural environment, and a cultural object produced by humans. Residing at the interface between human sciences and biology, archaeodendrology attempts to define the interactions between human societies and their tree-covered environment. It also contributes to the work of piecing together the history of woodworking techniques that are characteristic of ancient cultural practices, as well as that of palaeoenvironments through the exploitation of wood, how it was used and processed.
Dendroarchaeology leverages the expertise of several disciplines:
– xylology and anthracology, to determine the tree species and properties of the wood;
– dendromorphology, to define the morphology, structure and implementation of trees within archaeological objects;
– ligneous traceology, to analyse the marks of anthropic (tools, shaping, etc.) or biological (insects, fungi, etc.) origin which appear on the surface of wooden remains;
– dendrochronology, to determine the felling date of trees by recording the number and breadth of their annual growth rings;
– dendroecology, to identify ecological events linked, for example, to the climate, the environment or the impact of humans on the environment.


In Greek mythology, the god of winemaking, wine and festivity (in Ancient Greek Διώνυσος or Diónysos). He is also considered to be the father of comedy and tragic drama. Born to Zeus and a mortal mother, Semele, Dionysus experienced an eventful childhood caused by the wrath of Hera, his father’s wife. He was raised by nymphs under the direction of his foster father, Silenus. The Romans worshipped him under the name of Bacchus.


A doline (also dolina) is a particular form of erosion in karstic limestone. Dissolved surface limestone leads to the formation of circular hollows or sinkholes that can be anywhere between a few metres and several hundred metres wide.


Dolia were large earthenware jars designed mainly for the storage of foodstuffs. They differed from other types of ceramic pot by their great holding capacity, coarse temper and long-coil construction. Considered to be the largest terracotta containers ever made, dolia of the Roman period could hold between 500 and 3,200 litres. They were built at various production centres around the Mediterranean between the sixth century BC and the third century. 
In the Roman period dolia were mostly used in wine and oil cellars for vinification and storage. 
Omnipresent on terrestrial Roman sites, dolia were also used between the late first century BC and the middle of the first century as holding tanks in boats which specialized in transporting wine in bulk. Their size and shape varied according to when they were built and where they were going to be installed. The smallest dolia, and also the oldest, had a capacity of between fifty and ninety litres. It was during the Early Roman Empire that dolia attained their greatest size, with examples holding between 600 and 3,200 litres.


Dolostone (also dolomite) is a sedimentary carbonate rock containing at least 50% dolomite, a mineral consisting of calcium bicarbonate and magnesium.


The water eductor or water dredge is an archaeological tool which harnesses a powerful flow of a water under pressure and various principles of fluid dynamics, in particular the Venturi effect which was named after its discoverer, the Italian physicist Giovanni Battista Venturi. It exploits the depression created by the faster-flowing water particles to suck up underwater sediment. A similar tool is the airlift or suction dredge which uses compressed air drawn from the surface to the site of the excavation. Bursts of air are injected into the dredge through a low-pressure pipe and the resulting bubbles return to the surface up the pipe of the dredge, carrying with them the sediment which gets sucked into the mouth of the dredge.

Dressel Heinrich
16 juin 1845-17 juillet 1920

German archaeologist and epigraphist known for his work on Latin inscriptions and, in particular, the discovery of the Duenos inscription, one of the oldest examples of Old Latin. In 1872, during the initial excavations at Monte Testaccio in Rome, he developed a typology for classifying ancient amphorae. Each type or shape of amphora bears his name and a number (there are forty-five in total). Much of Dressel’s synoptic table continues to be of use today.


Liquid clay used to coat pottery to give it a shiny appearance or to hide its natural colour. In the modern period engobe could be coloured with oxide and show through the glaze.


Person who discovers a wreck and reports it to the appropriate authorities.

Force X

A squadron of the French Navy assembled at the start of the Second World War to deter Italy from undertaking operations in the Eastern Mediterranean. It comprised one battleship of 26,500 tonnes (Lorraine), three cruisers of 10,000 tonnes (Duquesne, Tourville, Suffren), one cruiser of 7,500 tonnes (Duguay-Trouin), three torpedo boats of 1,500 tonnes (Basque, Forbin, Fortuné) and one submarine of 1,500 tonnes (Protée).


Collectively, all the curved wooden or metal pieces of a ship’s hull that lie perpendicularly to the keel and receive the planking. Their design varies according to the historical period and type of architecture. During classical antiquity, especially in the Mediterranean, ships were built by first assembling planks to form the hull which was then strengthened by the addition of frames. This type of construction is known as ‘shell-first’. In the Middle Ages, with the rise of the construction method of building the frames and subsequently adding the planking (frames-first), each individual frame comprised a floor, two futtocks and two or more top timbers. See the diagrams Hull and Shell-first.


Material of indeterminate composition coating an object.

La Tène

La Tène or Second Iron Age is a protohistoric culture which developed in Europe between approximately 450 and 25 BC.

Material culture

All the man-made artefacts found on an archaeological site. Archaeological material comprises numerous object categories which are often designated by the material used in their manufacture, such as ceramics, glass, and metals. Some of these categories, such as pottery, are useful chronological markers and provide information for dating the context in which they were discovered. As a source of historical knowledge, material culture is of primary importance because it has much to say about daily life, trade, cultural traditions and technical expertise.


While its etymological meaning is ‘that which bears ten thousand’, this term refers to boats of 260 to 400 deadweight tonnage which were capable of carrying up to 10,000 amphorae.

Nitrogen narcosis

Divers experience the ‘raptures of the deep’ when breathing high-pressure nitrogen, which affects their nervous system and, ultimately, their behaviour. Nitrogen narcosis was first described in 1930 by Leonard Erskine Hill and John James Rickard Macleod (1876–1935). It usually occurs during deep dives. Symptoms appear for some at a depth of 30 metres; by -60 metres they are unavoidable.


The Palaeolithic is the earliest period of prehistory. It is the longest of all the periods, extending from the first appearance of humankind about three million years ago to approximately 12,000 years before the present day.


Photogrammetry is a method for surveying an object, structure, or even an entire site, in three dimensions. It involves the acquisition of a large number of images (ensuring comprehensive coverage), which are then analysed and processed using specific algorithmic software to add volume or bulk. When combined with various measurements, photogrammetry generates images, to scale, in two or three dimensions. Based on the principles of parallax and stereoscopy, this method is particularly useful for digitising archaeological objects or sites. The discipline’s development is such that today it can generate 3D reconstructions swiftly, and with such accuracy that researchers are able to work, measure and study remains off-site.

Photogrammetry is steadily being taken up by every archaeological discipline, from parietal art to urban archaeology and the study of objects retrieved from excavations. It also offers new avenues for research, such as in deep-water archaeological deposits, where photogrammetry is now replacing drawings done by hand.


Small square or circular moulded pedestal to support a bust or vase.


Pithoi (πίθος/πίθοι) were large earthenware jars with slender bases made by the Greeks, mostly in the islands, between the eighth and sixth centuries BC. They could be transported by boat. Pithoi had three main uses: domestic, votive or funerary. Installed in the basement of houses, they were used to store rainwater, especially in the islands. They were also used to store wine, oil, grain, flour, grapes and other foodstuffs, and even as ‘packaging’ for fine ceramics that were to be transported by boat.


French term meaning ‘west’ or ‘where the sun sets’ and used by French-speaking archaeologists to denote the western seaboard of Europe or the shores of the Atlantic Ocean (as opposed to the Mediterranean Sea).


Posidonia are aquatic plants of the family Posidoniaceae. Even though they live underwater they are not seaweed but seagrasses or, to be precise, monocotyledonous flowering plants.


In a chronological sense, protohistory corresponds to the period in Europe and Central Asia which includes the Neolithic and the Metal Ages (Copper Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age).

Radiocarbon dating

Radiocarbon dating, also known as carbon-14 dating, is a method of determining the absolute age, that is to say the time passed since death, of organic material by measuring the amount of carbon-14 (14C) it contains.


Assembly of masts, yards, sails and lines required to propel a sailing vessel.


In botany, rings are the concentric circular bands of wood that can be seen on the cross section of a tree trunk. Each ring corresponds to a year’s growth of wood, the lighter part of the ring corresponding to the more active growth in spring, while the darker part indicating the slow growth of autumn and winter. Estimating a tree’s age by counting its growth rings is called dendrochronology.


The abbreviation ROV designates a remotely operated vehicle. In the case of underwater archaeological excavations, an ROV is a teleoperated submersible designed to explore the deeps. It enables archaeologists to view underwater sites without endangering the lives of divers. Given that ROVs can perform functions other than image acquisition, they can also be considered robots. Many such robots are able to manipulate (grasp and move) objects such as amphorae. Within the context of underwater archaeological excavations ROVs have a vast range of applications and are, consequently, of primary importance.


Sheerlegs are a type of crane generally found in ports, although some vessels which specialize in carrying heavy cargo also use them. They can raise very heavy loads. Sheerlegs are the ancestors of modern cranes.

Shell-first construction

This wooden boat-building technique involves assembling the hull planks (the shell) before fitting the frames. Typical of naval construction in classical antiquity, the technique continues to be used today in some parts of the world. The planks might be sewn, nailed or jointed together.


France’s naval hydrographic and oceanographic service, known by its acronym the SHOM, is a public administrative body which acts under the authority of the French Ministry of Defence. It is tasked with studying and describing the physical marine environment and predicting its evolution. Consequently, it maintains maritime and coastal databases which serve as references on various themes (sea depths, wrecks, currents, water temperature, salinity, composition of the seabed). On behalf of France it publishes nautical reference works, including marine charts. The SHOM has a responsibility to support public policies relating to national defence, the coast and the sea.


Fine sand, clay, or other material deposited as a sediment.


An archaeological term from the Latin situla referring to bucket-shaped vessels for carrying water or other liquids. Situlae resemble vases in the shape of a bucket or cylinder, rounded in their lower section, with a rounded or pointed bottom, and fitted with a handle. They were made in every size and from numerous materials, but the best known were made from bronze and feature remarkable decorations. They often had a ritualistic value. Situla-shaped receptacles were very common between the sixth and fourth centuries BC in Central Europe and Northern Italy.

Spring scale

A spring scale or spring balance is a type of mechanical weighing scale. The device comprises a spring, which extends under the weight of the object measured, and a graduated scale to provide a reading. Spring scales can be used to weigh heavy loads.


A stalactite (from the Greek stalaktos, ‘that which drips’) is a mineral concretion which forms on the roof of a cave or tunnel, or under poor-quality or cracked concrete slabs or ceilings.


A stalagmite is a speleothem, a concretion which forms on the floor of a cave or tunnel under the slow and continuous dripping of limewater.


A strake is a line of planks which extends from one end of the hull or deck to the other.


Stratigraphy is the study of the successive geological or archaeological layers of a given site. Such layers, called stratigraphic units (SU), are the result of accumulating sediment, human material remains, animal or plant remains and, more generally, the traces of past events occurring on a given site.

The study of stratigraphic units enables archaeologists to characterize and sometimes date a succession of events that may or may not have been caused by human activities. The order and position of the layers that comprise a given stratigraphic sequence provide a relative chronology of events, that is to say, they can be dated in relation to each other. By comparing this relative chronology to various datable elements contained in certain layers, such as pottery, coins or other items that can provide a date (also called index fossils or chronological markers), archaeologists can establish points that anchor it to an absolute chronology. 
Stratigraphy, a fundamental principle of contemporary archaeology, requires methodical excavations and a rigorous and systematic measurement protocol. Stratigraphic units or layers can be distinguished from each other by their physical characteristics (consistency, colour, composition, hade/slope, etc.) and the archaeological material they contain. Each SU is documented by saving a detailed file, by making drawings in plan and cross-section, and by taking photographs. All these documents enable the archaeologist to undertake a stratigraphic study, even after certain layers have been removed for the purpose of attaining underlying layers. 
In underwater archaeology, stratigraphic studies are less common than in excavations on land because wrecks are hermetic sites originating from a brutal yet isolated event. However other submerged sites, such as harbours, shore constructions, middens, bridges, fish keeps and stilt dwellings, contain information that has been deposited over a period of time and thus feature stratigraphic sequences which are similar to those observed on dry land.


A weir or trap is an area in a stretch of water, usually close to the shore, which has been fenced or enclosed to facilitate the capture of fish. By extension, the term may also refer to the specific constructions within it.


A xylophage is an insect whose diet comprises for the most part alburnum or sapwood but sometimes heartwood too. Such animals, either in their larval or adult state, eat the branches, trunks and roots of dead or living trees. In the sea, a xylophagous marine worm called the naval shipworm or Teredo navalis lives off the wood of shipwrecks.