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Roman shipwreck full of wine jars discovered

An archaeological mission has unearthed a well-preserved wreck of a Roman cargo ship off Albania’s coast, containing over 300 wine jars.

The 30-metre long wreck dates to the 1st century BC and its cargo is believed to have been the produce of southern Albanian vineyards en route to western European markets, including France.

The find was made 50 metres deep near the port city of Vlora, 90 miles southwest of Albania’s capital, Tirana.

Officials said most of the jars, known by their Greek name of amphoras and used to transport wine and oil, were unbroken despite the shipwreck. However, their stoppers had gone, allowing the wine they contained to leak out into the water.

The Florida-based RPM Nautical Foundation has been surveying a swathe of Albania’s previously unexplored coastal waters for the past five years. So far, experts have located 20 shipwrecks, including several relatively modern ones.

“Taking into consideration the date and the depth, which is well suited for excavation, I would include it among the top 10 most scientifically interesting wrecks found in the Mediterranean,” said Albanian archaeologist Adrian Anastasi, who took part in the mission.

The Roman ship could have been part of a flourishing trade in local wine.

“Ancient Illyria, which includes present day Albania, was a major source of supply for the western Mediterranean, including France and Spain,’ said mission leader George Robb.

Team members retrieved one amphora for examination, before restoring it to the wreck. The site, the precise location of which is being kept secret, will be left unexplored until the Albanian archaeological service is in a position to do so.

The find follows last year’s discovery of two shipwreck sites in European waters which threw up relics of the continent’s winemaking past.

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