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Corinthian shipwreck from 7th Century BC found in the Strait of Otranto


A shipwreck carrying Greek ceramics from the 7th century BC, discovered in Italy in 2019, sheds new light on Magna Graecia, the area of southern Italy that was settled by the Greeks. The ship, submerged at 780 metres depth, has now been recovered in the Strait of Otranto, in southern Italy.


Corinthian shipwreck from 7th Century BC found in the Strait of Otranto
Credit: Ministry of Culture

Its study has revealed new aspects about the history and trade of Magna Graecia, the Italian Ministry of Culture said in a statement.




Twenty-two ceramic vessels from the Corinth, part of the wreck’s cargo, were recovered with the help of a submersible Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) armed with the latest technologies used in underwater exploration by the oil and gas industries.


Corinthian shipwreck from 7th Century BC found in the Strait of Otranto
Credit: Ministry of Culture

The amphorae and other vessels found in the wreckage of the ship were first spotted in 2018 during operations for a pipeline that brings natural gas to Italy from Azerbaijan. They “constitute a unique finding of the kind,” declared the Italian Minister of Culture, DarĂ­o Franceschini.


Superintendent of the excavation, underwater archaeologist Barbara Davidde explained that the pieces are “part of the cargo of the first shipwreck dating from the early 7th century BC found in the Adriatic Sea.”


Corinthian shipwreck from 7th Century BC found in the Strait of Otranto
Credit: Ministry of Culture

“The discovery offers us historical data that narrates the oldest stages of the Mediterranean trade at the dawn of Magna Graecia, and of the mobility flows in the Mediterranean basin,” revealed the Director of Italian Museums, Massimo Osanna. The objects are now in the National Superintendence’s restoration laboratory in Taranto.




The 22 vessels consist of three amphorae of Corinthian A type, 10 Corinthian skyphoi, four Corinthian hydrias, three oinochoai and one coarse ceramic jug of a very common Corinthian type. One of the large amphorae, which was partially broken, still contained a remarkable stack of 25 nested skyphoi.


Corinthian shipwreck from 7th Century BC found in the Strait of Otranto
Credit: Ministry of Culture

The amazingly intact cargo “sheds light on the early stages of ancient Greek settlement in southern Italy, thanks also to the significant state of preservation. It allows us to understand what the Greeks were transporting,” said Davidde.


That was more than just food such as olives; it also included bottles of wine, which were considered prestigious assets and highly appreciated also by the people there. The Ministry of Culture plans to recover the entire shipment, made up of at least 200 artefacts scattered on the seabed.


Corinthian shipwreck from 7th Century BC found in the Strait of Otranto
Credit: Ministry of Culture

They will be restored and subjected to both archaeometric and archaeobotanical analyses. Organic and plant residues could still be present in the sediment that fills many of the recovered ceramics. One of the Corinthian A amphorae was even found to contain numerous of olive pips.




“We are a country surrounded by the sea and we have a rich submerged cultural heritage that still needs to be studied, safeguarded and valued,” said the Minister.




“The recent investigations of the Otranto Strait confirm that it is a very rich heritage, capable of giving us back not just the treasures hidden in our seas, but even our history,” he added.


Source: Patrimonio Subacqueo [October 16, 2021]



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