In a bid to find clues about the historical link between Rome and Asia during ancient times, an international team of archaeologists is set to embark on an excavation drive at the oldest known shipwreck in the Indian Ocean.
The sunken ship has been sitting on the seafloor off the southern coast of Sri Lanka for some 2,000 years and was discovered in 2003.
The shipwreck lies 33 metres below the ocean’s surface, just off the fishing village of Godavaya where German archaeologists in the 1990s had discovered a harbour that was an important port along the maritime Silk Road during the second century AD.
“Everything is pretty broken but the wreck could fill a gap in the existing evidence for the trade that brought metals and exotic commodities like silk from Asia to the Roman world,” Deborah Carlson, president of the institute of nautical archaeology at Texas A&M University, was quoted as saying.
He is leading the expedition to the Godavaya wreck with colleagues from the U.S., Sri Lanka and France.
The team expects to start diving in mid-February and continue working through May.
The sunken ship is a concrete mound of corroded metal bars and a scattering of other ancient cargo — including glass ingots and pottery.
The shipwreck was discovered when a local fisherman found ancient artefacts, including a grinding stone shaped like a small bench.
Carlson partially documented the wreck during three subsequent exploratory campaigns between 2011 and 2013.
Age determination To determine the age of the wreck, Carlson and team took three wood samples from the mound and got them tested.
The results floored the team and they decided to launch the excavation mission.
The mound covers an area of about twenty by twenty feet, though the team has not been able to establish exactly where the shipwreck begins and ends during their short explorations of the site, said the report on LiveScience.com.