Incredible moment archaeologists discover 200 ancient Roman amphorae in underwater cave


Around 200 Ancient Roman amphora have been discovered in an underwater cave off of the coast of Majorca — in the first dive down there in 20 years.

Amphorae are ceramic pots — often used to store wine, other liquids, or grain — that have a two-handled design that dates back to the Neolithic Period.

The artefacts were found in the Fuente de Ses Aiguades cave, which lies in the Bay of Alcudia on the northeastern coast of Majorca, in the Spanish Balearic Islands.

Experts from the so-called ‘Underwater Archaeological Research in the Caves of Mallorca’ Project are re-exploring the caves using the latest technology.

The team believe that the ceramicware was left in the cave by sailors as some form of ritual offering.

Around 200 Ancient Roman amphora have been discovered in an underwater cave off of the coast of Majorca — in the first dive down there in 20 years

Around 200 Ancient Roman amphora have been discovered in an underwater cave off of the coast of Majorca — in the first dive down there in 20 years

The artefacts were found in the Fuente de Ses Aiguades cave, which lies in the bay of Alcudia on the northeastern coast of Majorca, in the Spanish Balearic Islands

The artefacts were found in the Fuente de Ses Aiguades cave, which lies in the bay of Alcudia on the northeastern coast of Majorca, in the Spanish Balearic Islands

Amphorae are ceramic pots, often used to store wine, that have a two-handled design that dates back to the Neolithic Period

Amphorae are ceramic pots, often used to store wine, that have a two-handled design that dates back to the Neolithic Period

The Fuente de Ses Aiguades cave was first discovered in 1998, with the last dive down there by underwater archaeologists having taken place in the year 2,000.

Although the cave had been explored previously, experts are now able to give it a more thorough examination using modern technologies, with some 200 new amphorae found as result, project leader Manel Fumás told Central European News.

Modern 3D scanning technology, he said, will allow them ‘fully understand the cave’s layout.’ 

The cave — which is around 591 feet (180 metres) long and full of stalactites and many air chambers — is accessed by a narrow vertical shaft, once reached using a pulley system.

‘The mystery lies in why there are so many amphorae. It is not normal. One could fall, when the pulley broke, but not 200,’ Mr Fumás said.

The sheer volume of the containers indicated that they had been left there as some form of offering, he said.

The results gathered so far, he added, ‘make us think the place was used for religious rituals by sailors.’

As well as studying the amphorae, Mr Fumás said that his team will also analyse the bones of extinct animals that have also be found in the cave.

Divers in a previous expedition, for example, found in the cave the remains of a Myotragus — also known as the Balearic Islands cave goat — which became extinct 5,000 years ago.

‘The presence of the Myotragus shows that the cavity was natural, formed thousands of years before the arrival of the humans to Mallorca and not as a consequence of [human] action related to the search for water,’ Fumás and colleagues explained.

The results gathered so far, the researchers said, 'make us think the place was used for religious rituals by sailors'

The results gathered so far, the researchers said, ‘make us think the place was used for religious rituals by sailors’

Experts from the so-called 'Underwater Archaeological Research in the Caves of Mallorca' Project are re-exploring the caves using the latest technology

Experts from the so-called ‘Underwater Archaeological Research in the Caves of Mallorca’ Project are re-exploring the caves using the latest technology

The Fuente de Ses Aiguades cave was first discovered in 1998, with the last dive down there by underwater archaeologists having taken place in the year 2,000

The Fuente de Ses Aiguades cave was first discovered in 1998, with the last dive down there by underwater archaeologists having taken place in the year 2,000 

Although the cave had been explored previously, experts are now able to give it a more thorough examination using modern technologies, with some 200 new amphorae found as result, project leader Manel Fumás told Central European News

Although the cave had been explored previously, experts are now able to give it a more thorough examination using modern technologies, with some 200 new amphorae found as result, project leader Manel Fumás told Central European News

‘The presence of the amphoras could be linked to commercial routes between Spain and Italy. Ships used to anchor off the island to gather freshwater before going on their way,’ the archaeologists told Central European News.

‘The water in the cave is 14 metres deep, half is freshwater and the rest is saltwater and they do not meet.’

‘This results in unique conditions that may have led people to believe that it held spiritual and healing elements as the chlorine level is very high, much like a swimming pool.’

A team of scientists has now returned to the site, however, aiming to use new 3D scanning technology to 'fully understand the cave's layout'

A team of scientists has now returned to the site, however, aiming to use new 3D scanning technology to ‘fully understand the cave’s layout’

As well as studying the amphorae, Mr Fumás said that his team will also analyse the bones of extinct animals that have also be found in the cave

As well as studying the amphorae, Mr Fumás said that his team will also analyse the bones of extinct animals that have also be found in the cave

Divers have already found, for example, the remains of a Myotragus — also known as the Balearic Islands cave goat — which became extinct 5,000 years ago

Divers have already found, for example, the remains of a Myotragus — also known as the Balearic Islands cave goat — which became extinct 5,000 years ago

Divers have already found, for example, the remains of a Myotragus (pictured here in this reconstruction) — also known as the Balearic Islands cave goat — which became extinct 5,000 years ago

Divers have already found, for example, the remains of a Myotragus (pictured here in this reconstruction) — also known as the Balearic Islands cave goat — which became extinct 5,000 years ago

A previous expedition led by one Xisco Gracia found 189 amphorae in the cave around 20 years ago, local media reported.

These amphoras were dated as coming from the Roman era right up to the 19th century, experts determined.

The team plans to publish the results of their presently ongoing studies later this year, Mr Fumás said.

The sheer volume of the containers indicated that they had been left there as some form of offering, Mr Fumás said

The sheer volume of the containers indicated that they had been left there as some form of offering, Mr Fumás said

'The presence of the amphoras could be linked to commercial routes between Spain and Italy. Ships used to anchor off the island to gather freshwater before going on their way,' the archaeologists told Central European News

‘The presence of the amphoras could be linked to commercial routes between Spain and Italy. Ships used to anchor off the island to gather freshwater before going on their way,’ the archaeologists told Central European News

A previous expedition led by one Xisco Gracia found 189 amphorae in the cave around 20 years ago, local media reported

A previous expedition led by one Xisco Gracia found 189 amphorae in the cave around 20 years ago, local media reported

These amphoras were dated as coming from the Roman era right up to the 19th century, experts determined

These amphoras were dated as coming from the Roman era right up to the 19th century, experts determined

The artefacts were found in the Fuente de Ses Aiguades cave, which lies in the bay of Alcudia on the northeastern coast of Majorca, in the Spanish Balearic Islands

The artefacts were found in the Fuente de Ses Aiguades cave, which lies in the bay of Alcudia on the northeastern coast of Majorca, in the Spanish Balearic Islands

HOW DID ROMANS STORE THEIR FOOD?

During the Roman era, there were certain ways that people preserved food to make it last longer. 

Food was made to last longer using honey and salt as a preservative, which greatly increased the time before it spoiled. 

Smoking was also used in European cultures of the time, enabling our ancestors to produce sausage, bacon and ham.

Romans also knew how to pickle in vinegar, boil in brine and dry fruit too. 

All of these techniques were used to make fresh food last longer.

As well as these treatments, storage was improved, including vast stores that were built to keep grain and cereals in.

Classic storage containers were barrels, amphorae and clay pots, as well as grain silos and warehouses. 

Wealthy Romans also had large storage cellars in their villas, where wine and oil amphorae were buried in sand.

A stone table with a high, smooth, base was used to store fruit during the winter. The design of the table meant that no pests could reach the food.

Romans in affluent households used snow to keep their wine and food cold on hot days. 

Snow from mountains in Lebanon, Syria and Armenia was imported on camels, buried in pits in the ground and then covered with manure and branches.

In some regions, towns in the Alps for example, used local snow and ice as well as deep pits to build huge refrigerators.