As part of a recent archaeological expedition, researchers have stumbled upon the wreck of a ship, carrying thousands of jars full of garum – a pungent fish sauce used extensively in the cuisines of ancient Rome, Greece and Byzantium. Located 650 feet underwater, off the coast of Alassio in Northern Italy, the 2000-year-old shipwreck was discovered by a team of Italian archaeologists, with the help of police scuba divers.
Used chiefly as a condiment, garum was probably made from the blood and the intestines of fish, fermented in saltwater and cured in the sun for a period of one to three months. Known for its strong pungent smell, this ancient ketchup was produced in large quantities in factories all over Spain and Portugal. It possessed a delicate sweet-and-sour taste, and was often added to dishes as a substitute for salt.
Originally located by a fisherman, the wreck site houses the debris of a Roman vessel, which likely dates back to the first and the second century AD. Estimated to have been around 98 feet in length, the cargo ship was carrying several thousand jars of garum when it went under, possibly as a result of stormy weather. Speaking about the find, Simon Luca Trigona, of the archaeological superintendency of Liguria, said:
From the size of the jar-made mound we estimate the ship was carrying between 2,000 and 3,000 amphorae, or clay jars.
Using a remote operated vehicle with a claw, the team was able to retrieve one of the many jars lying on the seafloor. Ironically, these broken clay vessels now serve as a shelter to fish. According to the archaeologists, the ship was probably sailing home to Rome after leaving the Spanish port of Cadiz, which back then was a major hub for the fish sauce industry. Vincenzo Tiné, the Superintendent of Archaeology in Liguria, added:
It has not been possible yet to recover a jar with residues that can be analyzed. However, the one we brought to light, which is identical to all the others, is of a shape that was used exclusively for garum.. Locating and investigating it at such depth has been a very important achievement.
Fragments of wine jars, likely produced in the area surrounding river Tiber, helped the researchers identify Rome as the ship’s place of origin. The discovery, Trigona believes, is significant because it is the first to show that the Romans followed a number of different maritime trade routes, apart form the traditional route from the southern part of Spain and the island of Corsica to Rome.
Via: Discovery News