Ancient and Mysterious Roman Shipwreck With Dozens of Sealed Amphorae Discovered Off Coast of Spain

An ancient Roman shipwreck has been discovered off the coast of Mallorca in Spain with almost 100 sealed amphorae inside.

The discovery was made after local resident Félix Alarcón spotted some shards of pottery on the seabed in Palma in July, the Balearic Institute of Maritime Archaeology Studies (IBEAM) said.

The Spanish government then enlisted the help of the IBEAN for an emergency excavation, to ensure the rare artefacts weren't plundered before they could be recovered.

A team including underwater archaeologists and naval architecture specialists, with the help of the Spanish Navy and the Civil Guard, found the sunken vessel a few meters off the coast of S'Arenal beach, one of the most tourist-heavy areas of the Balearic Islands.

A video shared on the IBEAM's Facebook page last week shows the moment archaeologists in scuba gear ventured underwater to recover the ancient treasures.

Believed to be the wreck of a merchant ship, the IBEAM said it was likely carrying a shipment of oil, salt and wine in amphorae from the south of the Iberian Peninsula.

According to, the ship was relatively small, measuring just 33 feet long and 5 feet wide, with 93 amphorae stowed in the hold. Many of the vessels remain intact and sealed, meaning their contents may have been preserved.

Experts estimate the ship, which they dated to the third century A.D., sank around 1,700 years ago. They are not sure how the ship sank, but because of how well preserved the amphorae are, they don't believe it was due to turbulent weather.

Leading theories include the ship springing a leak during its journey or possibly that a clash between the people aboard could have led to its sinking, according to ScienceAlert.

The IBEAM said the materials most at risk of being plundered were recovered. The rest of the materials and the hull of the ship have been protected in situ.

The artefacts recovered during the excavation have been transferred to the Museu de Mallorca, where technicians are carrying out conservation work. They are also desalinating the amphorae to prevent the salt from sea water cracking the jars.

Officials at the Consell de Mallorca have contacted several specialists who will be in charge of analyzing the contents of the amphorae. The results of the research will be published in the coming months, the IBEAM said.

roman shipwreck
An ancient Roman shipwreck was found off the coast of Spain with almost 100 amphorae inside. IBEAM