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Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Roman Ship Off Coast of Croatia

submerged stone pier blocks
The remains of the submerged Roman port of Barbir (EU Interreg / ICUA)

Published Nov 8, 2022 1:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

A team of marine archaeologists have uncovered a 2,000-year-old ship off the coast of Croatia near what was once the Roman port of Barbir. 

The wreck site was first spotted in 2021 when researchers with the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology found coins on the seabed bearing marks from the Roman era, along with a wooden board. They returned to the site last month and uncovered about 30 feet of the ship's hull on the seabed. Dating of the structure indicates that it was built in the first or second centuries AD. 

The portion of the wreck that was buried under the sands is well preserved, center director Mladen Peši? told local outlet Hina, and the vessel retains most of its shape. The team plans to return next year to continue its work. 

The ancient Barbir port site is submerged in shallow water just off the modern city of Zadar, Croatia. The remnants include submerged stone breakwaters or piers, built in two phases in about the first and fourth centuries AD.

Exploration and excavation has been ongoing since 2017. The center has worked with partners from the German Archaeological Institute, Oxford, and Croatia's museum of archaeology to discover more about the ancient port and the vessels that called at it. The EU's Interreg program provided early support for site study and protection. 

The site has been slowly yielding clues to its age and origins, according to local news outlet Zadarski. Past finds include trade items from around the Mediterranean, evidence of Rome's broad reach and commercial connections. These include ceramic fragments from Greece, Turkey, Italy, the Middle East and North Africa, as well as a variety of Roman coins.