In 2007, the Department of Underwater and Underwater Archaeological Research (Drassm) in Arles and its chief curator, Luc Long, caused a sensation by unearthing from the bed of the Rhône an extremely rare head of Julius Caesar, made during his lifetime. This time, it is another major discovery that the team unveiled in front of the camera of Saleha Gherdane: a Roman wreck that sank in front of Arles in the 4th century with a real treasure on board, which lies 20 meters deep.
This is not the first boat that archaeologists have found in the tumultuous Rhône. They have already located 23 of them, all having sunk on the right bank of the river, where the great port of Arles was, opposite the current city. This time, the barge, of which there remain the planks and fabrics used for the caulking, rests exceptionally on the left part. Why ? Its precious cargo of coins, two gold jewels, all stamped with the effigy of the young Constantine II, but also silver ingots, metal plates, will deliver the key to this enigma…
Geographer, architect, numismatist
The documentary follows the progression of the discoveries over very delicate dives, in darkness and currents. The camera also accompanies Luc Long with a wide variety of researchers – geographer, architect, numismatist, conservator-restorer expert in metal cultural objects, etc. – to analyze the results of these excavations and understand their location.
Thus, the famous “bridge of boats” of ancient Arles (reconstituted here in virtual images), not far from the place of the sinking, could explain the drama. The unmaneuverable barge was able to get caught in the ropes of the bridge as it tried to reach, just behind, a mint. In 340, the assassination of Constantine II by his brother Constant I, who became the new emperor, was to impose the manufacture of new coins with the effigy of Constant and the erasing of the features of his elder.