Divers recover cargo from ancient Greek shipwreck

Divers illuminate Greco-Roman artifacts of a ship that sunk during the Punic Wars. Picture: AP

Divers illuminate Greco-Roman artifacts of a ship that sunk during the Punic Wars. Picture: AP

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DIVERS have discovered cargo from an ancient Greek shipwreck off the coast of Italy.

Archaeologists and divers descended 125 metres in a submarine into the Mediterranean sea, finding a pile of amphorae - large urns used to move olives and wine - and a sacrificial altar inscribed with Greek letters.

The divers, from the Florida-based Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) are helping researchers from Italy uncover the shipwreck’s mysteries.

The ship is believed to have sailed during the time of the second Punic Wars, around 218-210 BC, and was discovered off the Aeolian island of Panarea in 2010 by researchers from the United States using sonar gear and a remotely operated submersible north of Sicily.

It was so far underwater that researchers believe it has been safe for centuries from looters and fishermen. The ship is thought to be in better condition than similar shipwrecks.

Archaeologists say the ship is a wooden vessel measuring around 15 metres long, that could have broken up on rocks before sinking after encountering rough seas.

Researchers are hopeful that the cargo discovery will help uncover the mystery surrounding the ship. One theory is that the ship was a supply vessel as part of Claudio Marcello’s fleet.

Marcello was a Roman consul who conquered the Sicilian city of Syracuse in 212 BC.

The sacrificial altar’s Greek inscriptions could also provide clues to the ship’s origins, while the size and shape of the amphorae could help archaeologists determine what the ship was carrying and, as a result, its likely route.

Jarrod Jablonski, one of the divers with the group, told Sky News: “It felt very much like a ghost ship awaiting the boarding of ancient mariners.”

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