By Caroline Goldstein - Artnet
During the summer of 2019, a storm hit off the coast of Mallorca’s Ca’n Pastilla beach. The churning waters jostled free the wreckage of a Roman merchant vessel Ses Fontanelles, lost to the world since it sank around the middle of the 4th century C.E.
In the years since, the ancient wreck has been the subject of extensive study as part of a collaboration between the universities of Barcelona, Cádiz, and the Balearic Islands known as Consell de Mallorca. Together, these institutions have undertaken a three-year project dubbed Arqueomallornauta (2021-2023), to take stock of underwater discoveries.
The results, the Consell de Mallorca researchers say, are “frankly exceptional.”
Some 300 amphorae have been unearthed from the cargo holdings. While some are in pieces, many are in remarkably pristine condition. Scientists say the ancient containers were used to transport both fermented fish sauces as well as oil and wines that would’ve been used to preserve fruit.
The amphorae are decorated with painted inscriptions called tituli picti - in fact, 100 painted labels in total were discovered among the wreckage, making it the largest collection of tituli picti in Spain. These provide insight into the crew’s life onboard, as well as into what shipping and trade was like during the 4th century C.E. in the Mediterranean.
A video posted by the University of the Balearic Islands featuring Enrique García, professor of art history and theory, gives a sense of the riches of the site.