‘Perfectly Preserved’ Glassware Recovered From 2,000-Year-Old Shipwreck

The Roman vessel may have sunk while transporting glass from the Middle East to France

Pile of glass artifacts
Archaeologists recovered a collection of blown-glass tableware in excellent condition. © Manuel Añò/ ProdAqua

Archaeologists have recovered thousands of pieces of glassware—many of them “perfectly preserved”—from a 2,000-year-old shipwreck in the waters between Italy and France.

The Roman vessel, called the Capo Corso 2, is located 1,148 feet below the surface between France’s Cap Corso peninsula and Italy’s Capraia island.

Marine archaeologists from Italy and France teamed up to explore the wreckage during the first week of July, according to a statement from Italy’s National Superintendency for Underwater Cultural Heritage. Other researchers also participated in the study, including experts who specialize in ancient glass, marine ecology and underwater conservation.

Capo Corso 2 un relitto romano carico di vetro a 350 m

In 2012, the wreck was first discovered by engineer Guido Gay, according to the statement. Archaeologists completed an initial survey of the site in 2013, then went back a second time for additional analysis in 2015.

This summer, international researchers revisited the wreck once again. Using two remotely operated vehicles (ROV)—named Arthur and Hilarion—they conducted scans of the site to look for any changes over time. They also directed Arthur to gently use its mounted claw system to recover artifacts from the wreck.

The robot pulled up two bronze basins, some Bronze Age jars called amphorae and a large collection of glass tableware objects, including bowls, cups, bottles and plates. The team took those artifacts to a laboratory in Italy for further study and restoration.

On the ship, archaeologists also discovered blocks of raw glass in various sizes in the wreck. Based on the kinds of glassware found, the researchers think the ship was traveling from a port in the Middle East, likely Syria or Lebanon, and that it was probably heading toward the French Provençal coast.

Claw grabbing piece of glass
A remotely operated vehicle named Arthur used a mounted claw system to carefully recover the glass artifacts. © Manuel Añò / ProdAqua

In addition to recovering artifacts, the team wants to “assess the biological state of the wreck,” reports Newsweek’s Robyn White. “Shipwrecks often become artificial reefs for sea life over a period of time. The structures often create thriving ecosystems, as marine organisms attach themselves to their surface.”

Archaeologists estimate the wreck dates back to the end of the first century or the beginning of the second century C.E. They hope to glean more information about its age through additional study of the recovered artifacts.

Ultimately, the shipwreck should help researchers “reconstruct a page in the history of Mediterranean trade,” reads the statement.

It continues: “Given the exceptional nature of the wreck and the results of this first survey campaign, the researchers of both countries hope to be able to start a broader multidisciplinary project in the coming years.”

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