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Divers explore 2,300-year-old wreck off Egypt

A diver explores the El-Alamein wreck site (Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities)
A diver explores the El-Alamein wreck site (Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities)

A 2,300-year-old merchant shipwreck has been discovered in the Mediterranean Sea off Egypt’s north coast. The remains are centred on a submerged reef, suggesting that the ship sank after striking the rocks.

Also read: Divers find ‘evil-eye’ disc – and village of 100,000 spikes

An engineer from a marine-survey company spotted the remains during a routine survey and informed the country’s Supreme Council for Archaeology, which dispatched a scientific dive-team to determine the ancient wreck’s historical and archaeological significance.

Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities, which has just announced the discovery, said that divers from the Egyptian Archaeological Mission had investigated the amphora-laden wreck, which lies about 650m out from the town of El-Alamein. They had dated it to the 3rd century BC.

The cargo includes a number of distinctively shaped wine jars (Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities)
The cargo includes a number of distinctively shaped wine jars (Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities)
Assortment of pottery artefacts on the ancient wreck (Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities)
Assortment of earthenware on the ancient wreck (Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities)

At that period in history, Egypt’s north coast had boasted many commercial ports apart from Alexandria, said Dr Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council for Archaeology. These centres had served ships sailing between Egypt, North Africa and southern Europe, carrying principally wine, olives and grain. 

He added that the discovery offered new evidence of the commercial, economic and tourism status of Egypt and the El-Alamein region. The town lies about 115km west of Alexandria.

The wine amphoras appear to have originated in Rhodes (Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities)
The wine amphoras appear to have originated in Rhodes (Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities)

Remains of the ship’s timbers had been found along with hundreds of pottery artefacts, including a large number of amphoras designed to carry wine. Their style indicated that they had originated on the Greek island of Rhodes, said the head of the Supreme Council’s Egyptian Archaeological Sector Dr Ayman Ashmawy. 

The archaeologists have now completed documentation of the site using 3D photogrammetry, and have been discussing strategies for handling, maintaining and conserving the many finds before embarking on excavations to discover “what secrets the ship has hidden”.

Also on Divernet: Mine-clearance divers turn up ancient shipwreck, Deep ancient wrecks overflow with glass, pots & lamps, Divers probe ancient Med marble wreck, Coins led divers to ancient Roman shipwreck

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