Roman shipwreck dating back to the time of Jesus Christ containing cargo of 6,000 well-preserved WINE jugs is found on the Greek sea floor
- The ‘Fiscardo’ shipwreck was located near a fishing village using sonar tech
- Roman wreck contains 6,000 preserved pots used to transport food and wine
- The 34-metre ship suggests new information about Roman shipping and trading
A Roman shipwreck that dates from the time of Jesus Christ has been discovered in Greece, with a cargo of around 6,000 amazingly well-preserved pots used for transporting wine and food.
The 110-foot-long Fiscardo ship and its cargo, discovered off the coast of the Greek island of Kefalonia, reveals new information about the shipping routes taken by Roman traders across the Mediterranean.
The wreckage, which was found near the Greek Fiscardo fishing port using sonar equipment, dates between 1 BC and AD 1, Greek researchers say.
The cargo is visible on the seafloor and is in a good state of preservation.
The ship’s cargo, around 6,000 Roman pots, is in good condition despite the wreckage dating as far as 1 BC
The cargo is 98 feet long, 32 feet wide and stands four feet above the seabed
WHAT IS AN AMPHORA?
An amphora is a type of jug-shaped container, usually made from ceramic, which was used to transport and store various products, both liquid and dry, but mostly for wine.
It typically had two large handles joining the shoulder of the pot to its long narrow neck, which was designed for pouring. Stoppers were used to seal the contents.
Amphorae were used as tableware, and were designed to be seen, so they were often finely decorated by master painters.
‘It’s half-buried in the sediment, so we have high expectations that if we go to an excavation in the future, we will find part or the whole wooden hull,’ said George Ferentinos at the University of Patras, Greece, who led the study of the findings.
Fiscardo is one of the largest four found in the Mediterranean Sea and the largest yet found in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The ship’s dimensions would have been about 110-feet long and 42 feet wide, with a cargo load almost as big — 98 feet by 39 feet.
Its cargo is estimated at about 6,000 amphorae, a distinctive type of Roman pot with two handles and a narrow neck.
The wreckage was discovered off the coast of the Fiskardo fishing village on the Ionian island of Kefalonia, Greece
The sidescan sonar detection technology transmits high frequency sound pulses in a vertically wide fan shape from a moving vessel, which scans the seafloor
The shipwreck was found off the present-day Fiscardo fishing port, where ancient houses, bath complexes, a theatre, a cemetery and a tomb, dating to Roman times between 146 BC and 330 AD, were recently found.
This indicates that Fiscardo was an ‘important port at that time’, the researchers said in their study, published in Journal of Archaeological Science.
The researchers say Fiscardo port was a significant calling place along the Roman trading route trading that ferried goods around the Med.
Photomosaic of the cargo on the seafloor, obtained with sidescan sonar detection technology, is in good condition and keeps the ship’s shape
WHAT IS SIDE-SCAN SOLAR TECHNOLOGY?
Side-scan sonar (SSS) uses sound waves to create images of the seafloor.
SSS provides readings of differences in the seabed’s material and texture.
For this study, SSS transited high frequency sound pulses in a vertically wide fan shape from a moving vessel.
The reflected pulses from the seafloor were recorded and processed to produce an image of the seafloor.
SSS is used in marine archaeology, environmental science and the military.
Goods such as cereal, wine, oil and olives were transported throughout all the Mediterranean harbours, with Rome as their final destination.
It has not yet been decided if the shipwreck is to be raised from the bottom of the ocean, but if recovered further study could reveal more about its origin.
The underwater sonar techniques may also provide information about the ship’s hull stowage and its vulnerability to human activity, such as actions that could have sank the ship.
While earlier Mediterranean shipwrecks were found using Scuba divers, the team used computer vision techniques to process sidescan sonar seafloor images.
Such modern underwater sensing technology is a valuable tool as a way of separating of potential ancient shipwreck targets from other seafloor features with similar acoustic signatures.
HOW DID ROMANS STORE THEIR FOOD?
During the Roman era, there were certain ways that people preserved food to make it last longer.
Food was made to last longer using honey and salt as a preservative, which greatly increased the time before it spoiled.
Smoking was also used in European cultures of the time, enabling our ancestors to produce sausage, bacon and ham.
Romans also knew how to pickle in vinegar, boil in brine and dry fruit too.
All of these techniques were used to make fresh food last longer.
As well as these treatments, storage was improved, including vast stores that were built to keep grain and cereals in.
Classic storage containers were barrels, amphorae and clay pots, as well as grain silos and warehouses.
Wealthy Romans also had large storage cellars in their villas, where wine and oil amphorae were buried in sand.
A stone table with a high, smooth, base was used to store fruit during the winter. The design of the table meant that no pests could reach the food.
Romans in affluent households used snow to keep their wine and food cold on hot days.
Snow from mountains in Lebanon, Syria and Armenia was imported on camels, buried in pits in the ground and then covered with manure and branches.
In some regions, towns in the Alps for example, used local snow and ice as well as deep pits to build huge refrigerators.