Ancient Roman shipwreck dazzles archeologists

Date: 1/12/2006

A shipwrecked first-century vessel carrying delicacies to the richest palates of the Roman Empire has proved a dazzling find, with nearly 2,000-year-old fish bones still nestling inside clay jars. Originally found in 2000 it has taken years to arrange finance and crews, to explore the site off the coast of Alicante in southeast Spain. Work began in July 2006. The ship is estimated to have been 100 feet long with capacity for around 400 tons of cargo. The freight was an estimated 1,500 well-preserved clay amphoras, or two-handled jars, used in this case to hold fish sauce – a prized condiment for wealthy Romans. The site is easily accessible – in just 25 metres (80 feet) of water about 1.5 kilometres (one mile) from the coast. About 60% of the ship’s wooden structure is buried under mud. The cargo probably includes lead, which the Romans used for plumbing, and copper, which they mixed with tin to make bronze for everything from plates to jewellery. When word of the find first spread in 2000, pirate scuba divers raided the site and stole some of the amphoras. This forced the Valencia government to build a thick metal grating to cover the remains.

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