Marine archaeologists have salvaged ancient wine vases piled on the hull of a 2,350-year-old cargo ship lying on the seabed off Cyprus’ southern shore, the island’s Antiquities Department said today.
The vessel is one of only a few such commercial ships dating from the late Classical period (mid-4th century BC) to have been discovered so well-preserved.
The ship rests under 150ft of water some one and a half miles from shore.
Divers last month brought to the surface only a few of the more than 500 amphorae – terracotta vases used in antiquity to ferry liquid and other foodstuffs – for more study.
They are of the type that carried red wine from the Aegean island of Chios - reputed to be the most expensive of classical antiquity, the Department said in a statement.
“Apart from the Chian amphorae, which form the overwhelming majority, there are also other types from islands of the north Aegean,” said a statement released late Friday.
Many more amphorae are believed to lie underneath the sand-buried hull of the ship.
The Department said the find is of “great importance” in helping scientists learn more about sea trade and commerce in the Aegean and east Mediterranean during the Classical period.
“The results of this study will shed light on the many problems of nautical and economic history,” including commercial relations between the north Aegean and south-eastern Mediterranean and how sea trade was organised, the statement said.
The Department said this was the first marine archaeology research project conducted exclusively by Cypriot institutions.
Divers will start the next surveying phase in October. The project is being undertaken by the University of Cyprus’ Archaeology Research Unit and is funded by the Thetis Foundation, a private institution that protects underwater cultural heritage.
The ship appears to be a contemporary of the famed Kyrenia, a 50ft merchant vessel that another Greek Cypriot diver accidentally discovered off the island’s northern coast more than four decades ago.