There is a story kicking around right now about a shipwreck find near Genoa and my mind has been boggling to see it develop. So right now, pre-coffee, and seeing it in gaining ‘strength’, I’m basically at this point:
Okay, so here’s how it developed this past weekend. For purposes of review, this seems to have begun with a brief UPI article, which was much-passed-around on the internet via twitter etc.:
An intact Roman ship from the second century B.C. has been discovered off the coast of Genoa in Italy, archaeologists say.
The vessel, which contains hundreds of valuable amphorae — earthenware vessels traditionally used to transport wine — was spotted by police divers roughly one mile from the shore of Alassio in 160 feet of water, Italy’s ANSA news agency reported Friday.
Police said they have been tipped off to the whereabouts of the ship during a year-long investigation into stolen archaeological artifacts sold on the black market in northern Italy.
“This is an exceptional find,” Colonel Francesco Schilardi, who led the police dive team, said. “Now our goal is to preserve the ship and keep thieves out. We are executing surveys and excavations to study the contents of the boat which is perfectly intact.”
Encased in layers of mud, the find promises to yield clues to Rome’s trade activity between the Italian peninsula and other areas in the Mediterranean, experts said.
The ship is thought to have travelled on trade routes between Spain and what is now central Italy and was loaded with more than 200 clay amphorae likely to have contained fish, wine, oil and grain.
… so the source seems to be ANSA, and here’s their report, just for comparison purposes:
An intact Roman ship from the second century BCE has been discovered off the coast of Genoa. The vessel, which contains roughly 50 valuable amphorae, was spotted by police divers roughly one mile from the shore of Alassio, 50 meters underwater. Police were tipped off to the whereabouts of the boat during a yearlong investigation into purloined artefacts sold on the black market in northern Italy. “This is an exceptional find,” said Colonel Francesco Schilardi. “Now our goal is to preserve the ship and keep thieves out. We are executing surveys and excavations to study the contents of the boat which is perfectly intact”. The culture ministry said the ship should prove vital in shedding light on Rome’s trade activity between the Italian peninsula, France and Spain.
Now here’s where it gets weird/frustrating … one of the phenomena of the news side of the internet is that search engines often ‘rediscover’ articles which have the same day and month date, but a different year. Interestingly/coincidentally/suspiciously enough … a year ago, the Age had an article which happened to pop up last week. I should note that, a year ago, I didn’t deal with this directly at rogueclassicism per se, but did include it in my explorator newsletter. In any event, this is what the Age had on August 8, 2012:
FOR 2000 years the ancient and decomposing hulk lay buried in deep, muddy waters, off the Italian coast.
Everybody knew it was down there because for more than 80 years local fishermen had been collecting bits of Roman artefacts and pots in their nets.
Finds of this nature are not unusual in Italian waters, which are littered with treasures going back thousands of years.
But these artefacts told a different story, and it was good enough to attract the interest of the archaeological community and a police commander who heads an expert diving squad in the city of Genoa.
Lieutenant-Colonel Francesco Schilardi, the commanding officer of the police team that found the wreck, has been referred to as the ”Top Gun” of the oceans because of the secrets he and his team unravel by locating and recovering wrecks and long-lost treasures.
This time the team, including state archaeologists and historians, were so sure that the ocean, close to the town of Varazze, Liguria, was hiding something special that they went to a little more expense to find out what was down there. They used a submarine, a robot and sophisticated mapping and tracking equipment, along with the results of extensive historical studies of the area.
The efforts paid off, with a find described as ”one of the most important” of its kind.
They uncovered a 2000-year-old Roman vessel buried 70-100 metres deep and encased in layers of mud that promises to reveal secrets about the way of life in the 1st century AD, not only in Rome but in other regions that traded with the empire.
The discovery of the food transport vessel, with an estimated 200 clay amphorae on board – and with caps of pine and pitch intact – sent ripples of excitement through archaeological communities partly because the ship and its contents are remarkably well preserved.
”It is a relic of great value,” Lieutenant-Colonel Schilardi, told Italian newspaper La Repubblica. It goes back, he said, to the Roman republican and imperial age, when Rome traded with the Mediterranean countries, primarily Spain, and when the Ligurian Sea and the nerve centre, or the crossroads of Roman marketing and trade at the time.
The sea lanes in the area were used by the Romans to export food including honey, spices and wine from the late Roman Republican era to the beginning of the Augustan Age.
Lieutenant-Colonel Schilardi was also quoted in the Italian press saying the fact the containers were so well preserved might help to reveal important information about diet at the time and perhaps add to cultural and commercial profiles of the period. The fact the wreck was found at such depth, and encased in a bed of sandy mud that is typical of the area, helped ensure the vessel remained in a good state of preservation, he said.
Authorities have sealed off the area to prevent treasure hunters from plundering the site and the attention of the experts has turned to getting finance and state support to recover the wreck and its contents.
Meanwhile the search continues, with archaeologists excited by sonar readings that indicate the sand covering the vessel that may well contain further treasures.
… The discovery did get wide coverage, and what I did post at rogueclassicism was a list of the links: In Explorator 15.17
As you can see, the finds seem to be remarkably similar, differing primarily in the name of the town they are supposedly close to (Alassio v Verraze). But the UPI piece is talking about two hundred amphorae while the source ANSA piece mentions “50 valuable amphorae”, so maybe they’re different finds? Interestingly, though, the piece from the Age also mentions 200 amphorae.
Now just to further add to the confusion, the usually-reliable Live Science comes out with a piece which appears to be a mashup of the coverage from a year ago and the most recent … here’s the incipit:
For fans of Italian cuisine, the news of a well-preserved ancient Roman shipwreck — whose cargo of food might still be intact — will surely whet their appetites.
The ship is believed to be about 2,000 years old and is buried in the mud off the coast of Varazze, Italy, according to The Age. The mud kept the wreck hidden for centuries, but also helped to preserve it and its cargo, held in clay jars known as amphorae.
“There are some broken jars around the wreck, but we believe that most of the amphorae inside the ship are still sealed and food-filled,” Lt. Col. Francesco Schilardi, commander of the police diving team that found the shipwreck, told the BBC. [Photos: Shipwreck Alley's Sunken Treasures]
Local fishermen suspected there might be a wreck in the area, because pieces of pottery kept turning up in their nets. Police divers used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to locate the shipwreck about 160 feet (50 meters) underwater.
“This is an exceptional find,” Schilardi said. “Now, our goal is to preserve the ship and keep thieves out. We are executing surveys and excavations to study the contents of the boat, which is perfectly intact.”
Using sophisticated technologies like ROVs, sonar mapping equipment and genetic analysis, marine archaeologists have had considerable success in recent years in recovering well-preserved artifacts from shipwrecks. [...]
… the article includes links, so you might want to check them out, but the editor is either unaware or doesn’t care that he’s linking to coverage from a year ago!
Whatever the case, I’d really like some clarification whether this is a new find or not or whether this is a followup investigation of some sort. More likely, it seems to me, some editor saw the same Age piece pop up in their daily search, didn’t check the date, and ran with it …