Archaeologists have found five well-preserved Roman shipwrecks deep under the sea off a small Mediterranean island, with their cargo of vases, pots and other objects largely intact, officials said Friday.
The ships are submerged between 330 to 490 feet off Ventotene, a tiny island that is part of an archipelago off Italy's west coast between Rome and Naples.
The ships, which date from between the 1st century B.C. and the 4th century, carried amphorae - vases used for holding wine, olive oil and other products - as well as kitchen tools and metal and glass objects that have yet to be identified, Italy's Culture Ministry said.
The spot was highly trafficked, and hit by frequent storms and dangerous sea currents.
The discovery is part of a new drive by archaeological officials to scan deeper levels of the sea and prevent looting of submerged treasures.
Discoveries of shipwrecks are not unusual in the Mediterranean, but these ships are far better preserved than most, which are often found scattered in fragments, said Annalisa Zarattini, the head of the ministry's office for underwater archaeology.
Because the ships sank at a deeper lever than most known wrecks, they were not exposed to destructive underwater currents, she said.
The ships also sank without capsizing, allowing researchers to observe their cargo largely as it had been loaded, Zarattini said.