A Maritime Pompeii





Pisa is famous for its leaning tower, but archeologists there are now uncovering an amazing fleet of ancient ships, some complete with crew and cargo.

The San Rossore train station on the edge of Pisa, Italy, is a lonely stop. Tourists who visit this city to see its famous leaning tower generally use the central station across town. But San Rossore is about to be recognized as one of the country's most significant archeological digs. For nearly a decade archeologists have been working near and under the tracks to unearth what is nothing short of a maritime Pompeii.

So far the excavation has turned up 39 ancient shipwrecks buried under nine centuries of silt, which preserved extraordinary artifacts. The copper nails and ancient wood are still intact, and in many cases cargo is still sealed in the original terra cotta amphorae, the jars used for shipment in the ancient world. They have also found a cask of the ancient Roman fish condiment known as garum and many mariners' skeletons—one crushed under the weight of a capsized ship. One ship carried scores of pork shoulder hams; another carried a live lion, likely en route from Africa to the gladiator fights in Rome.


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