An international team of researchers has discovered the remains of a Phoenician ship that sunk in the waters off the island of Malta around 700 BC, Maltese authorities announced this week.
One of the oldest shipwrecks found in the Mediterranean, the vessel is about 50 feet long. It was found at a depth of 400 feet on the sandy seabed of Gozo island, the second-largest island in the Maltese archipelago.
“There are very good chances that the wooden hull is still present, buried beneath the sand,” Timmy Gambin, a senior lecturer in maritime archaeology at the University of Malta and the co-director of the project, told Discovery News.
Gambin and colleagues from Texas A&M University and the French National Research Agency, found the ship’s cargo spread over a 700-square-foot area. According to Gambin, it was “in a fantastic state of preservation.”
The sandy seabed likely cushioned the impact when the ship sunk, leaving jars and ceramic containers unbroken.
According to the researchers, the ship carried a mixed cargo of jars and grinding stones.
About 20 grinding stones made from volcanic rock, each weighing as much as 75 pounds, were identified at the site.
“The stones, probably coming from Sicily, were being transported to be sold elsewhere in the Mediterranean,” Gambin said.
The researchers also spotted some 50 amphorae — containers with two handles and narrow necks used to hold wine and oil — made in seven different types and sizes. This would indicate the vessel had traveled to numerous harbors before sinking.
Like other Phoenician trading vessels, the ship might have made stops in Sardinia and Malta to sell its cargo.
According to Gambin, its route might have included ports of call in southern Italy, Sicily, Malta and possibly North Africa in present day Tunisia.
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