The shipwreck dates back 2,600 years to the second century B.C.E.
Archaeologists off the coast of Palermo, Sicily have discovered an ancient Roman shipwreck loaded with amphorae – jars used for transporting wine and olive oil.
The vessel was discovered near Isola delle Femmine submerged about 302 feet underwater and measures 20 meters (65 ft) long by 8 meters (26 ft) wide.
Archaeologists found a “copious cargo” of wine amphorae using a oceanographic vessel Calypso South to explore the sunken ship using high-precision instruments like the remote operated vehicle (ROV) that was used to photograph the wreck.
The discovered amphorae was found still bearing the imprint of ship rope and many others are lying unbroken on the sea floor, which suggests they were rapidly jettisoned when the ship went down—are made of clay from southern Italy. The experts are currently unsure how the ship came to be in that part of the Mediterranean.
This discovery can help historians understand Rome’s trade routes which stretched across North Africa, Spain, France and the Middle East.
“The Mediterranean continually gives us precious elements for the reconstruction of our history linked to maritime trade, the types of boats, the transport carried out,’’ says Valeria Li Vigni, expedition leader and superintendent of the sea for Sicily, in a statement, per a translation by the Guardian. “Now we will know more about life on board and the relationships between coastal populations.’’
The Roman Republic had a great appreciation for Sicilian wine, making its trade “one of the most profitable and widespread activities for local entrepreneurs,” notes Giacomo Galeazzi for Italian newspaper La Stampa, per Google Translate. Mamertine wine came to be highly respected, not only by writers such as Pliny (23–79 AD) and Strabo (63 BC–24 AD) but also by Roman emperor Julius Caesar (100–44 BC).
The historical significance of amphorae
Ancient amphorae provide a wealth of information about the ancient world. The two-handled jars, which are associated with ancient Greece and popular throughout the classical world, contain details that pertain to archaeological sites’ dates, trade links and inhabitants. Though often linked with Greeks, amphorae were also used by Romanesque civilizations in Italy such as the Phoenicians.
Though some people believe amphorae are merely wine jugs, they actually appear in the cargo of many ancient shipwrecks. In the spring, authorities discovered a Roman craft near Sicily that contained 230 sunken vessels and jars. Researchers found among them some 2nd century B.C.E wine! Even more astounding was 2013’s discovery: At 164 feet below sea level off the coast of Genoa, divers found an intact Roman ship with 50 amphorae inside (ANSA reported).
The largest known wreck of an amphorae cargo ship, carrying 6,000 pots, was discovered off the coast of Kefalonia, an Ionian island off the coast of Greece.
Source: The Guardian