Ingots from the wreck of Capo Bellavista

In Arbatax in 1954, in the waters in front of Capo Bellavista, they found the wreck of a Roman ship. They recovered 32 tin ingots weighing an overall 119.1 kg, plus iron and copper.

Unfortunately, most of the material found was lost and we now only have 6 tin ingots for a total of 28.3 kg, currently on display in the Museum A. Sanna of Sassari (fig.1). Because of their shape they are considered similar to those of Port Vendres (Rochelongues, France), which were part of a cargo shipwrecked around the mid I century A.D. and were manufactured with very pure tin (figs. 2-4). Scholars feel that both the ingots of Port Vendres and those of Capo Bellavista came from Spain.

The fact that tin ingots have not been found very often is due to the fact that it is not found in a metal form in nature; it is mainly obtained from cassiterite (a mineral it is present in as an oxide) and stannite. In ancient times, the only form of this element definitely known of was cassiterite.

In Sardinia, tin ingots have been found in various archaeological contexts, both prehistoric and historic.

Fig. 1 - Ingots shown in the Museum "A. Sanna" in Sassari (photo from M. G. Arru).
Fig. 2 - Drawing of the Roman Period ingots from the Port Vendres wreck
Fig. 3 - Drawing of tin ingots recovered from the wreckage of Port Vendres II (from COLLS ET ALII 1977, p. 64, fig. 2).
Fig. 4 - Drawing of tin ingots recovered from the wreckage of Port Vendres II (from COLLS ET ALII 1977, p. 14, fig. 5).


  • D. COLLS, C. DOMERGUE, F. LAUBENHEIMER, B. LIOU, Les lingots d'étain de l'épave Port-Vendres II, in Gallia, tome 33, fascicule 1, 1975, pp. 61-94.
  • D. COLLS, R. ETIENNE, R. LEQUÉMENT, B. LIOU, F. MAYET, L'épave Port-Vendres II et le commerce de la Bétique à l'époque de Claude, Archaeonautica, 1977, I, pp. 11-23.
  • F. LO SCHIAVO, Un problema insoluto: il relitto di Capo Bellavista, in Bollettino d’Arte, Archeologia subacquea, 3, nn. 37-38, suppl., Roma 1987, pp. 135-139.
  • R.D. PENHALLURICK, Tin in antiquity: its mining and trade throughtout the ancient world with particular reference to Cornwall, London 1986.