A diver has made the discovery of a lifetime after he stumbled on the remains of a shipwreck dating back to ancient Rome.
The wreckage, which was found off the coast of Israel, was uncovered by storms and boasts beautifully crafted Roman marble.
Experts say they were aware that the ancient shipwreck existed, having analysed ancient texts that referenced a ship destroyed in the area almost 2000 years ago.
However, the exact location of the ship had been a mystery.
Scientists believe the historic wreckage was previously hidden under mountains of sand, before storms and strong currents brought it to the sand’s surface.
“Such storms often blow up suddenly along the country’s coast and, due to the ships’ limited manoeuvring potential, they are often dragged into the shallow waters and shipwrecked,” Koby Sharvit, director of the underwater archaeology unit at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), said in a statement announcing the find.
Relics found on what is believed to be a mammoth Roman-era cargo ship have since been analysed by the IAA, who discovered evidence of ornate marble columns.
The marble could have originated in Turkey or Greece and was travelling south, “possibly (to) Alexandria in Egypt”, Dr Sharvit hypothesised.
Had the columns made it to their destination, they would likely have adorned a “magnificent public building” such as a temple or theatre, he said.
Archaeological examinations determined that the ship was carrying 40 metric tonnes of marble, including “Corinthian columns adorned with ornate vegetal patterns, capitals and marble columns measuring some six metres long”, the IAA said.
Based on the size of the pieces, scientists determined that the ship “could bear a cargo of at least 200 tonnes”.
By examining the position and angle of the ship’s remains, archaeologists think it “encountered a storm in the shallow waters and dropped anchor in a desperate effort to prevent the ship from grounding,” the IAA said.
The diver made the discovery several weeks ago and reported it to the IAA this week. The finds are the oldest known sea cargo wreck in the Eastern Mediterranean.