Italian archaeologists have recovered off the coast of Sicily what appears to be the most complete ancient Roman ship ever found.
Lying at the depth of about 2 meters (7 feet) near the shore of Marausa Lido, a seaside resort not far from Trapani, the wreck was covered by a seaweed mound which has preserved most of the ship and its cargo.
En route from North Africa to Rome, the large vessel sank in shallow waters, probably after hitting some dangerous rocky outcrops under the surface.
A close investigation of the cargo, mainly jars once filled with dried fruit, wine, oil and fish sauce, allowed the archaeologist to date the large vessel to the third century AD, a difficult period known as the Imperial Crisis.
Indeed, struck by a record of disasters and an economic depression, the Roman Empire came near to collapse.
Built from pine and fir tree beams, the large navis oneraria (merchant ship) featured an almost intact hull.
The archaeologists recovered more than 700 wooden pieces, making it possible to reconstruct most of the ship.
Under restoration at a specialized lab in Salerno, the vessel is expected to be displayed in a local museum within two years.