A group of French and Italian underwater archaeologists discovered several glassware and raw glass blocks from a sunken Roman ship between the Italian island of Capraia and the French island of Corsica. This is only the second discovered wreck with a cargo consisting predominantly of glass, both processed and unprocessed blocks of various sizes and colors, ready for use in commercial glassware. From this ship, thousands of glass shards and tons of raw blocks lie on the seabed. The contents of the wreck suggest that it last went to sea in the late 1st or early 2nd century AD.
The shipwreck was discovered at a depth of 350 meters (1,150 ft) in 2012. The site was originally believed to be in French territorial waters, and the underwater archeology department of the French Ministry of Culture did some initial research on the site in 2013 and 2015. Diplomatic negotiations over where to draw the border in 2016 turned the site of the find into Italian territorial waters, and the two countries decided to work on a joint study of the sunken ship. The first joint mission campaign took place in the first week of this month.
The French Ministry of Culture provided its research vessel, Alfred Merlin, and two of his remote-controlled crash site investigation vehicles. One of the ROVs, dubbed “Arthur”, is a new prototype with more features than a Swiss Army knife. It can operate at depths of up to 2500 meters, shoot high-definition video, blow and suck up sediment, and grab objects to bring them to the surface with its slender claw system.
Arthur discovered a wide variety of glass objects, including bottles, plates, cups, bowls, a small ungentarium (cosmetic vessel) and several unworked blocks. In addition to glassware, two large bronze basins and several amphoras were brought to the surface.
At the moment, the sunken ship dates back to the end of the 1st century and the beginning of the 2nd century AD, but an in-depth study of the materials will provide additional information about the chronology of the shipwreck and more information about the route the ship took on its last journey. On initial analysis of the cargo, given the type of amphoras seen (carrot amphoras, Oriental amphorae, including likely Beirut-type amphorae and some Gauloise 4 amphorae), as well as the number of glass vessels and blocks of raw glass, archaeologists believe that the ship must have come from a port in the Middle East, possibly Lebanon or Syria, and that it was heading for the French coast of Provence.
The amphora shown in the photographs is a carrot amphora, named for its distinctive shape. They were produced in Beirut at the end of the 1st century and the first half of the 2nd century AD and were used to transport local dates for export to Italy, France, Spain, Germany, the Balkans and even further to Great Britain.
All recovered objects will be taken to the Taranto National Surveillance Laboratory, where they will be subjected to various scientific analyzes and stored for future display.
This video shows the ROV doing its thing, recording fantastic high-resolution video, vacuuming up sediment and retrieving fragile artifacts from the sea floor with its amazingly gentle yet effective claws.