A team of French and Italian underwater archaeologists found a selection glassware and raw glass blocks from a Roman shipwreck between the Italian island of Capraia and the French island of Corsica. It is only the second wreck found with a cargo that is mostly glass, both machined pieces and raw blocks in various sizes and colors ready to be blown into commercial vessels. There are thousands of pieces of glass and tons of raw blocks on the seabed from this one ship. The contents of the wreck indicate that it last entered the sea in the late 1st or early 2nd century AD.
The wreck was found at a depth of 350 meters (1,150 ft) in 2012. The site was initially thought to be in French territorial waters, and the underwater archeology department of the French Ministry of Culture conducted several initial surveys of the site in 2013 and 2015. Diplomatic negotiations over where to draw the border tipped the site of the discovery into Italian territorial waters, joint studies and the two countries decided on joint research by two countries in 2016. The first campaign of the joint mission took place in the first week of this month.
The French Ministry of Culture contributed its research ship Alfred Merlinand her two remote-controlled vehicles to explore the wreckage. One of the ROVs, named Arthur, is a new prototype with more features than a Swiss Army knife. It can operate at depths of up to 2,500 meters, shoot high-definition video, blow and vacuum sediments, and grab objects to bring them to the surface with a delicate claw system.
Arthur found an assortment of various glass pieces including bottles, plates, cups, bowls, a small unguentarium (cosmetic container) and several crude blocks. In addition to the glass, two large bronze pans and several amphorae were brought to the surface.
The wreck is currently dated to between the late 1st century and early 2nd century AD, but an in-depth study of the materials will be able to provide more details on the chronology of the wreck and more information on the route the ship took on its last voyage. In an initial analysis of the cargo, taking into account the type of amphorae visible (“carrot” amphorae, Oriental amphorae including probable Beirut-type amphorae and some Gauloise 4 amphorae) and the quantity of glass vessels and blocks of raw glass, archaeologists believe that the ship must have come from a Near Eastern port in Libya or Syria.
The amphora shown in the photos is a carrot amphora, named for its distinctive shape. They were produced in Beirut in the late 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 Britain.
All objects found will be taken to the laboratory of the National Surveillance Office in Taranto, where they will be subjected to various scientific analyzes and preserved for future display.
This video shows the ROV doing its thing, shooting fantastic high-definition video from the site, vacuuming up sediment and recovering fragile artefacts from the seabed with its remarkably gentle but effective claws.