Massive 2,000-year-old Shipwreck Discovered Off the Coast of Greek Island of Kefalonia

Cailey Rizzo

Archaeologists discovered a “significant” Roman shipwreck off the coast of Grecian islands in what is now the largest shipwreck found in the eastern Mediterranean and one of the largest found in the entire sea.

The ship was transporting thousands of terra-cotta pots, which could have contained wine, olive oil, nuts, wheat or barley, when it crashed. It has lain at the bottom of the sea for about 2,000 years until it was discovered with sonar in a study that lasted from 2013 to 2014.

Published in the January 2020 issue of Journal of Archaeological Science, the “Fiscardo,” as archaeologists have named the ship, dates back to somewhere between the 1st century B.C. and 1st century A.D., as the Roman empire was rising to power.

The ship is unusually long, measuring at 111 feet in length. Most other ships from around that time were around 50 feet long.

The wreck was found about 1.5 miles from the entry to the harbor of Fiskardo, a village on the Grecian island of Kefalonia. Researchers now believe the port may have been an important center of trade during Roman times.

Archaeologists are still debating what they will do with the treasures found in the wreck. It is too costly to bring them all up to land. Instead, the first step is to retrieve one of the pots and bring it back up to land for DNA analysis. From there, the archaeologists will attempt to find an investor to fund further dives to the wreck.

"It's half buried in the sediment, so we have high expectations that if we go to an excavation in the future we will find part or the whole wooden hull," George Ferentinos, who led the study, told New Scientist. "This could tell archaeologists when and where the ship was made, where the material came from and how it was repaired."

Researchers hope any new finds from the ship could help them discover more about Roman-era ship-building and shipping routes.