Friday, December 12, 2014

Ancient shipwreck discovered near Aeolian Islands

An archaeological team equipped with a mini-submarine made a spectacular discovery while exploring in deep water around the Aeolian Islands of Pantelleria, Lipari and Panarea – a 2,000-year-old sunken ship, complete with dozens of amphorae, plates, bowls, anchors, and a well-preserved sacrificial altar.

Divers descended 410 feet into dark Mediterranean waters off Italy, their lights revealing the skeleton of a ship that sank thousands of years ago when Rome was a world power. A sea-crusted anchor rested on a rock. The ship's cargo lay scattered amid piles of terra cotta jars, called amphora
One of the most exceptional discoveries was a terracotta altar on a pedestal containing decorative carvings of waves. While historical sources have referred to sailors making sacrifices to the gods to ensure a safe journey or to give thanks for having navigated a difficult passage, this is one of the first examples of an altar on a ship that may have been used for such purposes.
Researchers believe the ship was called the Panarea III, a wooden vessel about 50 feet long that was likely used as a cargo ship for a wealthy merchant or the Roman military.
It is unusual for shipwrecks this old to have survived thousands of years intact. The Panarea III was so far below sea level it was undetected by looters and fishermen.

"This shipwreck is a very important occasion to understand more about the daily life on the ancient ship, as well as the real dynamics of ancient trade," commented Sebastiano Tusa, an Italian archaeologist studying the site. The ship is thought to have sailed around 218-210 B.C. -- when Rome and Carthage were fighting for naval superiority in the Mediterranean.