An 'exceptional' Roman shipwreck was discovered with hundreds of intact 2,000-year-old jars off the coast of Italy

  • Relics of an ancient Roman cargo ship were found near Rome on Friday.

  • The vessel was filled with hundreds of Roman vases, and is estimated to be more than 20 meters long.

  • The local police authority called the discovery "exceptional."

The wreck of a 2,000-year-old Roman cargo ship was found off the coast of Italy on Friday in what archaeologists have described as an "exceptional" discovery.

The vessel, dating back to the second or first century BC, was found loaded with hundreds of ancient Roman terracotta jars, also known as amphorae.

Italian news organization La Repubblica suggested that the ship could have arrived from Spain, carrying a cargo of olives, olive oil, wine, peaches, and figs.

The cultural-heritage division of the Carabinieri police found the wreck near the town of Civitavecchia, about 50 miles north of Italy's capital city, in a sandy seabed about 160 meters (525 feet) deep.

The Carabinieri said in a statement: "This exceptional discovery represents an important example of the sinking of a Roman ship which faced the perils of the sea in an attempt to reach the coast, and bears witness to the ancient maritime trade routes."

They added that local authorities were taking all necessary steps to safeguard and protect the archaeological site.

The ship was likely part of the Cura Annonae, an ancient Roman body that was charged with importing and distributing grain to the residents of the cities of Rome.

Italy's Mediterranean coastline is dotted with Roman shipwrecks. Last year, archaeologists discovered a similar shipwreck dating back nearly 2,200 years stocked with jars used to transport food off the coast of Palermo, Sicily.

Read the original article on Business Insider