Ancient fish-sauce carrier found in Med

archive – Diving NewsAncient fish-sauce carrier found in Med

The wreck of an ancient Roman ship carrying as many as 2000 amphoras has been found 70m deep off Cabrera, a small uninhabited island off southern Majorca, and dived by an archaeological team.

The Balearics Institute for the Study of Marine Archaeology (IBEAM) was alerted last year when fishermen working in the Cabrera Archipelago Maritime-Terrestrial National Park reported finding amphora fragments in their nets.

The archaeologists used an ROV to investigate the site last April, and found an oval mound of amphoras 15m long and 10m wide. 

Underwater archaeologists Javier Rodriguez, Sebastian Munar Pandozi and Enrique Aragón joined technical divers Jordi and Jose Maria Chias Alberdi to dive the wreck in October. Using closed-circuit rebreathers to allow 40-minute bottom times, they were able to capture 2000 hi-res images for analysis.

The vessel is believed to date from the 3rd or 4th century AD and had been trading in garum, a fermented fish sauce regarded in ancient times as a delicacy. The ship's routes would have lain between North Africa, Spain, France and Rome.

Much of the cargo appears to have stayed in its original position, with the timber remains of the ship, which could be as long as 20m, buried probably intact beneath them. Most of the individual jars measure around a metre and are thought to come from North Africa, but there are also smaller amphoras, probably made in southern Portugal.

IBEAM believes that the wreck, designated Cabrera XIV because it is the 14th ancient shipwreck to be found in the national park, is the best preserved in the Balearics, and probably one of the best preserved in the western Mediterranean.

Despite its depth and remote location it is considered to be at high risk of looting, so “necessary measures of control and surveillance” are in force to protect the site.

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