Lonely Planet Writer

A stunningly-preserved Ancient Roman shipwreck has been found near Spain’s Balearic Islands

 An Ancient Roman shipwreck dating back 1800 years has been discovered off the coast of the Balearic island of Cabrera.

Cabrera, Balearic Islands
Cabrera, Balearic Islands Image by Getty

The well-preserved 20-metre wreck contains 1000–2000 amphorae, most of which are a metre in height and from North Africa. The jars contained garum, a fermented fish sauce that was considered a delicacy in Ancient Roman society. Many are still in their original position and the ship is buried beneath them. The wreck also contains smaller jars from the south of Portugal.

The wreck’s obscure location 70 metres deep in the Cabrera Archipelago Maritime-Terrestrial National Park is thought to have contributed to its preservation. Local fishermen were alerted to its presence when they found fragments of amphorae in their nets and tipped off the Balearics Institute for the Study of Marine Archaeology (IBEAM). In April 2016 IBEAM used a robot to search the area and generated images of amphorae strewn over a 15-metre area of seabed. Divers explored the site further in October and captured another 2000 images that will help the organisation in a study of the ship to be published over the coming months.

Ancient Roman shipwreck found off the coast of Cabrera.
Ancient Roman shipwreck found off the coast of Cabrera. Image by Getty

The ship is thought to have traded between North Africa and Spain, and even France and Rome. IBEAM say the ship is the best-preserved of its kind ever found in the Balearics, and one of the few intact examples in the western Mediterranean. It is thought to date from the third or fourth century BCE.

 ‘As far as we know, this is the first time that a completely unaltered wreck has been found in Spanish waters,’ marine archaeologist Javier Rodríguez told El País. He described the vessel as an ‘architectural jewel.’

 In fact, the ship is one of 12 from ancient times that have been discovered in the national park. The IBEAM emphasise the need to create a detailed map of the area’s archaeological treasures before they are damaged or stolen.

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