1,800-Year-Old Shipwreck Found Almost Completely Intact Off Spanish Coast

The ancient vessel found near the coast of Spain's Balearic Islands was carrying thousands of jars of a pungent fish sauce called garum, a popular Roman condiment.

An 1,800-year-old Roman shipwreck was discovered off the coast of Spain's Balearic Islands. Spanish archaeologists found the ship about 230 feet (70 meters) underwater, reported El Pais.

According to the Balearics Institute for the Study of Marine Archeology (IBEAM), most of the 1,000 - 2,000 Ancient Roman jars onboard are still in their original position from the time of the ship's sinking. The jars, known as amphorae, have remained untouched for nearly two millennia.

The amphorae are made of clay and were likely carrying garum, a pungent, fermented fish sauce that was considered a delicacy in Roman society, IBEAM's scientific director explained. Factories in Spain and Portugal once mass produced garum because it was such a widely used condiment, much as ketchup is today.

This is one of the few intact shipwrecks that has ever been discovered in the western Mediterranean. "As far as we know, this is the first time that a completely unaltered wreck has been found in Spanish waters," Javier Rodríguez, one of the marine archeologists who participated in the exploration, told El Pais.

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The fact that the ship was found in national park waters was a key factor in its preservation. The Balearic Islands foster hundreds of animal species and plant life and was declared Cabrera Archipelago Maritime-Terrestrial National Park in 1991. It is now one of the most well-conserved seabeds on the Spanish coast.

IBEAM was first notified of a potential shipwreck in this location when fishermen began finding pieces of amphorae in their nets. In April 2016, they sent a robot down to probe the area, which returned images of amphorae covering an area 49 feet (15 meters) wide.

In October, divers completed a more thorough investigation of the vessel, made all the more difficult by its extreme depth, and returned with over 2,000 images. A more extensive study is currently underway and will be released in the coming months.

So far archaeologists have determined the ship is 20 meters in length and originated in the fourth or fifth century BCE. It's believed that the ship was trading the jars of garum between North Africa, Spain, France and Rome.

This discovery is the most recent of 12 ancient ships found within the waters of the Cabrera Archipelago National Park. IBEAM is hoping to create a map of all the marine archaeological assets in the area before they suffer any damage.

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