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August 10, 2012

2,000-year-old Roman era ship with food intact discovered off Italy

London: Divers claim to have found a ship off the coast of Italy, which they believe is about 2,000 years old. The ship, which was spotted in the sea off the town on Varazze in the province of Liguria, is believed to be a Roman-era commercial vessel. The ship, a navis oneraria, or merchant vessel, was spotted at a depth of about 200 feet after a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was used to scour the seabed. A search for the shipwreck was launched after local fisherman said that they kept finding pieces of pottery in their nets. The divers found the wreck so well preserved that even the food was intact in the still sealed over 200 pots. “The peculiarity of this is that the wreck could be almost intact,” the Daily Mail quoted Lt Col Francesco Schilardi of the police divers’ group as telling the BBC. “We believe it dates to sometime between the 1st Century BC and the 1st Century AD,” he said. Test carried on some of the recovered jars revealed they contained pickled fish, grain, wine and oil. The foodstuffs were probably traded in Spain for other goods. The containers found in the wreck are known as amphora, and are unique shapes, that often contained handles. The large containers were generally used to transport large quantities of food and wine, and were able to hold both solid and liquid. The samples found in the latest wreck were ceramic, but they were also made in metal. “There are some broken jars around the wreck, but we believe that most of the amphorae inside the ship are still sealed and food filled,” Lt. Col. Schilardi said. It is hoped that further tests on the foodstuffs would provide an insight into Roman lifestyles. The ship is hidden under layers of mud on the seabed, which has left the wreck and its cargo intact. The vessel will remain hidden at the bottom of the sea until Italian authorities decide whether or not to raise it, and police have placed an exclusion zone around it to protect it from other divers.

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