Ancient Roman ship laden with wine jars discovered off Sicily

·2-min read

An ancient Roman vessel dating back to the second century BC has been discovered in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Palermo.

The ship lies 92 metres (302ft) deep in the ocean, near Isola delle Femmine, and from the first images taken by a submarine robot it was carrying a copious cargo of wine amphorae.

“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,’’ said the superintendent of the sea of the Sicilian region, Valeria Li Vigni, who launched the expedition. “Now we will know more about life on board and the relationships between coastal populations.’’

The discovery was described by the Sicilian authorities as one of the most important archaeological finds of recent years.

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A few weeks ago, Sicilian archeologists discovered another wreck: an ancient Roman ship about 70 metres deep near the island of Ustica. That ship also carried a huge load of amphorae, containing wine dating back to the second century BC.

The findings will shed light on Rome’s trade activity in the Mediterranean, where the Romans traded spices, wine, olives and other products in north Africa, Spain, France and the Middle East.

There are numerous wrecks of Roman ships throughout the Mediterranean, such as the almost intact Roman ship from the second century BC found in 2013 off the coast of Genoa. The vessel, which contained roughly 50 valuable amphorae, was spotted by police divers, roughly one mile from the shore of Alassio, 50 metres underwater.

In that case, police were tipped off about the whereabouts of the boat during a year-long investigation into purloined artefacts sold on the black market in northern Italy.

Every year, hundreds of ancient Roman amphorae, taken illegally, are found by the Italian police in the homes of art dealers.

In June, Italian authorities recovered hundreds of illegally gathered archeological finds from a Belgian collector, dating as far back as the sixth century BC and worth €11m (£9.4m).

The nearly 800 pieces “of exceptional rarity and inestimable value”, including stelae, amphorae and other items, came from clandestine excavations in Puglia, in Italy’s south-eastern tip, according to the carabinieri in charge of cultural heritage. The collector is awaiting trial.

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