Two Roman-era shipwrecks have been found in deep water off a western Greek island, challenging the conventional theory that ancient shipmasters stuck to coastal routes rather than risking the open sea.
They lay between 1.2 and 1.4 kilometers (0.7-0.9 miles) deep in the sea between Corfu and Italy. That would place them among the deepest known ancient wrecks in the Mediterranean.
Greece's culture ministry said the two third-century wrecks were discovered earlier this month during a survey of an area where a Greek-Italian gas pipeline is to be sunk.
Angeliki Simossi, head of Greece’s underwater antiquities department, said sunken ancient ships are generally found 30-40 meters (100-130 feet) deep.
Many scholars hold the view that ancient traders were unwilling to veer far offshore, unlike warships which were unburdened by ballast and cargo.
However, U.S. archaeologist Brendan Foley, who was not involved in the project, told Associated Press, a series of ancient wrecks located far from land over the past 15 years has forced experts to reconsider the coast-hugging theory.
Jeffrey Royal, director of the Key West, Florida, based RPM Nautical Foundation, added that in many cases — as when winds threatened to push ships onto rocks — ancient mariners made a conscious effort to avoid coastal waters.
In antiquity ships didn’t sail around with depth finders and keep track of how deep they were. It was more how far they were on the surface in relation to land. After 30 meters of depth the boat’s safe, so if it’s 30 meters (100 feet) or 3,000 meters it’s a little irrelevant
—Jeffrey Royal, director of RPM Nautical Foundation