One of the best preserved shipwrecks ever found has been discovered off the Italian coast.
The ship, which was spotted in the sea off the town on Varazze in the province of Liguria, is thought to be a Roman-era commercial vessel.
The ship, a navis oneraria, or merchant vessel, was located at a depth of about 200 feet after a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was used to scour the seabed.
A search for the shipwreck was launched after local fisherman revealed they kept finding pieces of pottery in their nets.
The divers found the wreck so well preserved even the food, still sealed in over 200 pots, is intact.
‘The peculiarity of this is that the wreck could be almost intact,’ Lt Col Francesco Schilardi of the police divers’ group told the BBC.
The team has so far been unable to find the name of the ship, but it was believed to be a sailed vessel used to carry commercial goods.
The ship would have been travelling between Italy and Spain, a popular shipping route, and would have been carrying food to sell at its destination.
Roman ships were commonly named after gods, mythological heroes or concepts such as harmony, peace and victory.
Researchers believe the mud on the seabed protected the wreck.
The foodstuffs were traded in Spain for other goods.
The containers found in the wreck are known as amphora, and are a unique shape, often containing handles.
The large containers were commonly used to transport large quantities of food and wine, and were able to hold both solid and liquid.
The examples found in the latest wreck were ceramic, but they were also made in metal.
‘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,” said Lt. Col. Schilardi.
It is hoped that further tests on the foodstuffs could give an insight into Roman lifestyles.
The ship, which dates to sometime between the 1st Century B.C. and the 1st Century A.D., is hidden under layers of mud on the seabed, which has left the wreck and its cargo intact.
The vessel will remain hidden at the bottom of the sea until Italian authorities decide whether to raise it or not, and police have placed an exclusion zone around it to protect it from other divers.