Mystery of seabed resolved with 2,000-year old ship's discovery
Marciana Marina, Italy, Aug 24, IRNA -- A mystery which has baffled
generations of local fishermen on the Tuscan island of Elba was
finally resolved this week, when a 2,000-year old perfectly preserved
Roman shipwreck was discovered on the seabed.
For years fishermen complained that their nets snagged in an area
of the sea which, according to nautical maps, had a smooth, muddy
base, wrote ANSA's Karma Hickman from Marciana Marina, on Friday.
Likewise the patch of water off the northwestern coastal village
of Marciana Marina teemed with fish such as lobsters and crabs which
can normally only be found in rocky areas.
Familiar with the legend, two Elban locals, environmentalist Gian
Lorenzo Anselmi, and an expert of ancient ships Sergio Spina, finally
decided resolve the conundrum once and for all, and sent a two-man
scubadiving team down to explore the area properly.
At 64 meters (210ft) down, divers Marco Agnoloni and Popi Adriani,
uncovered the first signs of the wreck, a series of massive containers
known as dolium.
"This is a truly sensational discovery," Anselmi told ANSA today,
"as it's the first time ever that this number of perfectly intact
doliums has been discovered in the Mediterranean".
Agnoloni and Adriani, both underwater archeology experts, returned
to the surface with reels of film showing the nine, perfectly
preserved ceramic containers, half covered by mud.
The size of the doliums - around two meters high and five meters
in diameter - has led experts to put the length of the boat at around
It also convinced them that the wreck dates back to some time
during the first Roman empire.
Significantly, the positioning of the dolium suggests that the
still-hidden ship is perfectly preserved beneath the mud.
Furthermore, the depth of the ship means it has probably not been
disturbed by wreck-robbers in search of items to sell on the
international black market - a common problem for Italy's archaeological
"This is the first time a complete, inviolate wreck has been
ound," Michelangelo Zecchini, an archaeologist who works for the
Forum UNESCO commented. "However in itself just the number of
containers and their superb condition makes this a truly astounding discovery".
The ship is currently under a meter of lime, but once excavation
ork starts, experts are hoping it will prove a gold mine of
The boat, which was probably transporting grain, will provide
valuable details on the layout and cargo of naves onerariae, or cargo
This in turn will help historians understand Mediterranean
shipping routes of the time in greater detail.
However the team is in no rush to bring the wreck to the surface.
Anselmi, who heads the local branch of environmental group
Legambiente, explained, "with the advanced state of technology today,
he ship can be thoroughly uncovered and detailed research carried out
"We want to discover as much as we can, disturbing the wreck as
little as possible".
He admitted however that with the discovery of the ship, the site
could become a possible target for wreck robbers, and together with
pina, is pushing for video cameras to be installed.
Marciana Marina Mayor Giovanni Martini is in favor of the
proposal, which would allow for round-the-clock surveillance of the
site, but said "the final decision rests with the regional council's
archeology department and the Culture Ministry".
If the plan is approved, Anselmi hopes the video cameras will play
a double role.
"Ideally, we hope to link them up with an on-line website, which
would transmit footage of the boat 24 hours a day," he explained.
"This will give people from around the world the chance to admire
the wreck in its 'natural' setting".