A team of Italian and American archaeologists have discovered the remains of five Roman ships lying at the bottom of the sea near Ventotene, an island off the coast of the modern-day Lazio and Campania regions.

Ranging from 15m to 25m in length, the ships represent over 600 years of Roman shipping history. The oldest, carrying Italian amphorae to northern Africa, dates back to the 1st century BC while the most recent, carrying African amphorae back to Italy, dates from the 5th century AD. As a result, archaeologists say the ships could offer a precious glimpse into the evolution of trade over the course of Roman history.

Scientists from the American marine-exploration non-profit Aurora Trust and Italian culture ministry were able to spot the shipwrecks by sweeping the seabed with sonar and then sending submersible robots in to investigate. At a depth of 100m, the vessels are among the deepest underwater finds ever made in the Mediterranean sea.

Head of the Italian culture ministry