The discovery of a 2000-year-old Roman shipwreck carrying hundreds of amphorae stunned archaeologists in the historic Italian city of Civitavecchia this week.
The ship, dated to the 2nd century B.C., was found lying about 160 meters deep on the sandy seabed off the city of Rome.
The discovery is described by Italian media as a “treasure of amphorae.”
2000-year-old Roman shipwreck discovery assisted by robots
The exceptional discovery was the result of an investigation led by a special unit of the Italian police which is tasked with safeguarding the country’s cultural heritage.
Coordinated by the Public Prosecutor of Civitavecchia, near Rome, and in collaboration with the National Superintendence for Underwater Cultural Heritage of Taranto, the Archeology Section of the Operations Department of the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage scanned the area with the help of a robotic system to detect the shipwreck.
A state-of-the-art patrol boat equipped with a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) featuring sonar and depth sounder made the stunning discovery and completed the mapping of the submerged archaeological site.
Besides the ship’s cargo, consisting of hundreds of amphorae, two Roman metal anchor stocks, belonging to the ancient vessel, were also found in the immediate perimeter of the wreck.
The discovery of the Roman shipwreck is of great historic, artistic and archaeological significance, as it bears witness to the ancient maritime trade routes.
Procedures for further reasearch at the site have been initiated with permission from the competent judiciary authorities.
The rich history of Civitavecchia
The area of Civitavecchia, where the Roman shipwreck was discovered, is home to an important harbour on the Tyrrhenian Sea since antiquity.
The city was first inhabited by the Etruscans, whose tombs are still scattered in the territory. The Romans developed the harbour which thrived throughout antiquity, the Byzantine Era and the Middle Ages.
Today, Civitavecchia is a major cruise and ferry port, the main starting point for sea connection from central Italy to Sardinia, Sicily, Tunis and Barcelona.
Ruins of the Roman city are omnipresent and well-preserved. They include Roman baths, towers, warehouses and an aqueduct.
Antiquities of Greek origin “recovered from the Abyss” exhibited in Italy
Italy’s National Superintendence for Underwater Cultural Heritage is a relatively new institution, established in 2021. It is headquartered in Taranto -a city developed from an ancient Greek colony– and has two more departments in Venice and Napoli.
Its first exhibition, “Recovered from the Abyss,” featuring the finds from a 7th-century B.C. shipwreck between the Italian and Albanian coast, launched in June and will be open to visitors until the end of 2023.
The sunken ship and its cargo were discovered during the works for the installation of the TAP gas pipeline between the Albanian and Italian coasts, at a depth of about 780 meters.
It carried ceramics of Corinthian manufacture, in particular containers for the transport of food, and fine ceramic tableware.