Divers Discover Near-Intact, 2,000-Year-Old Shipwreck

(Image Credit: Ufficio Stampa Carabinieri/EPA)

An ancient Roman merchant vessel has been discovered off the Italian coastline, reportedly in such good condition that much of the food it was carrying might still be intact in its storage jars.

'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. Francesco Schilardi of the police divers' group told the BBC of the containers.

Local fisherman first became aware of the wreck when pieces of pottery began turning up in their nets. They notified police divers who used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to locate the 2,000-year-old ship in the sea off the town of Varazze.

"We believe it dates to sometime between the 1st Century BC and the 1st Century AD," Schilardi said.

Tests on some of the roughly 200 pots, or amphorae, that the ship holds reveal that they contain pickled fish, grain, wine and oil, which were most likely en route to Spain to be traded for other goods when the ship sank.

The ship's remarkable state of preservation has been attributed to the layers of mud on the seabed, which covered the wreck and protected it from harm.

The vessel will remain on the ocean floor until Italian authorities decide whether to raise it.

"Right now, the area of the finding has been secured," Schilardi said, "and no fishing or water traffic is allowed."