1,800-year old Roman shipwreck found off the coast of Balearic Islands

roman-shipwreck-balearic-islands_1Credit: Jordi Chias

Spanish researchers have come across one of the rarer finds in the field of archaeology – that of an intact ancient shipwreck in the Mediterranean sea. The said discovery was located off the coast of Balearic Islands, Spain, around 230 ft below the sea-level. According to Balearics Institute for the Study of Marine Archaeology (IBEAM), it pertained to a 1,800-year old Roman ship that was carrying close to 2,000 amphorae (jars). Most of these objects were found to be still in their original position, thus suggesting how the shipwreck was ‘untouched’ for more than eighteen centuries.

IBEAM’s scientific director has hypothesized that the amphorae were carrying garum, the famous fermented fish sauce with its fair share of pungency that was consumed as a delicacy in most parts of the ancient Roman realm (and possibly also led to the unhygienic rise of tapeworm egg parasites). And one of the primary reason behind the credible hypothesis stems from the fact that garum was actually mass-produced in various regions of Iberia (Spain and Portugal) under Roman rule.

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Credit: Jordi Chias

Interestingly enough, the shipwreck in question was found within the parameters of the Cabrera Archipelago Maritime-Terrestrial National Park, a Balearic Islands ecosystem that is known for its well-conserved seabeds on the Spanish coast. In essence, the researchers believe that was this was one of the major advantages in favor of the preservation of the ship over the millennia.

But as with recent archaeological discoveries, the scope of the discovery was initiated quite accidentally, when fishermen in the region caught the odd amphora fragments in their nets. Surprised by such incidents, IBEAM decided to launch a robot underwater to investigate the scene in April of last year; and the mechanism was successful in capturing images of amphorae spread across an area almost 50 ft wide. Finally, in October of 2016, divers were able to make a comprehensive survey of the area, with over 2,000 photographs of the rare intact ancient shipwreck.

A consequent study (which is still ongoing) has revealed that the Roman transport ship was probably over 65 ft in length. The crew of the craft was tasked with the cargo of garum jars that were to be transported between the axes of North Africa, Spain, France and Rome. And quite intriguingly, this preserved specimen is actually the 12th ancient ship found within the confines of the Cabrera Archipelago National Park. To that end, researchers are looking forth to create a map that would depict all the marine archaeological sites (and assets) in the area, which could further aid in their controlled preservation.

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Artist’s depiction of an ancient garum factory. Source: Eagles and Dragons Publishing.

Source: El Pais

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