The Discovery of the Amphorae

Off the island of Pag, in Little Vlaška Bay: A shipwreck of a Roman merchant ship with a cargo of amphorae, 1st century BC.

Although the ancient Greeks first came up with the idea of the amphorae as the primary way of packaging wine, oil and many other commercial products for transportation in the Adriatic, it was not until Roman times that that there were any recordings of their mass use in well-organized maritime trade across the Mediterranean. Made from strong ceramic material that has been resisting the destructive effects of nature for thousands of years, they allow us to discover and explore the remains of ancient shipwrecks and to directly study the maritime economy of ancient times.

The entire Croatian public was pleasantly surprised by the discovery of the remains of the sunken merchant ship with a cargo of amphorae from the 1st century BC off the east coast of the island, in the Velebit Channel, in Little Vlaška Bay.

Mr. Dražen Peranić from Old Novalja first alerted the world to the existence of these sites in the spring of 2004, when he discovered more than a thousand amphorae and two lead bars from ancient anchors on the seafloor.

Expert analysis determined that the amphorae were the so-called Lamboglia type 2, primarily used for the transportation of wine, which characterized the production of amphorae from the second half of the 2nd century until the end of the 1st century BC. These amphorae were primarily intended for the Adriatic market and partly for the eastern Mediterranean as well. There is evidence of their production along the west coast of the Adriatic and there are also assumptions that they were produced on the east coast as well. On the edge of one of the amphorae was a TIMO seal, with which the manufacturer periodically marked the series of the produced items.

Along with the cargo of amphorae and the remains of the two anchors, other items were discovered in the shipwreck. Four ceramic pots were found in the sand, together with the lower part of a stone grain mill. All of these items were part of the ship's kitchen. During careful archaeological excavations on the edges of the site, a lead weight was discovered that was used as a sea gauge.

The site was protected in 2004 and is open to all 'underwater visitors'.