Insights from Latest Study: Uncovering Cargo of Ancient Roman Shipwreck in Spain, Including Fish Sauce Containers

In 2019, a tumultuous storm swept across the coast of Mallorca, Spain, leaving in its wake a remarkable archaeological discovery: the remains of a 4th-century Roman shipwreck nestled near Ca’n Pastilla beach. This serendipitous unveiling, dubbed the Ses Fontanelles, has since captured the attention of archaeologists worldwide, not only for its well-preserved structure but also for the tantalizing glimpse it offers into ancient maritime trade and practices.

Researchers Make An Intriguing Discovery Off The Coast Of Spain

The saga of the Ses Fontanelles began with the fury of nature, as the tempestuous waves of the Mediterranean Sea churned and shifted the sands, revealing the long-buried secrets of the ancient vessel. Against all odds, the ship emerged from its aquatic slumber, its wooden hull and precious cargo miraculously intact, a testament to the enduring power of preservation beneath the waves.

As diving expeditions delved into the depths surrounding the shipwreck, they unearthed a treasure trove of antiquities. Among the most notable finds were the amphorae, ancient vessels synonymous with maritime trade in the classical world. These vessels, some still sealed and others bearing remnants of their contents, painted a vivid picture of the bustling commerce that once traversed the Mediterranean.

Insights into Ancient Roman Maritime Techniques

Yet, the significance of the Ses Fontanelles extends beyond its cargo alone. With each artifact recovered from the seabed, new insights into ancient maritime practices emerged. From the discovery of a carpenter’s drill, essential for ship repairs, to the personal effects of the crew, including leather shoes and oil lamps adorned with symbols of ancient deities, the shipwreck offered a window into the daily lives of its seafaring occupants.

C: Arqueomallornauta/Consell de Mallorca

Moreover, the use of plant materials as cushioning for the cargo within the amphorae showcased the resourcefulness of ancient sailors in protecting their precious provisions from the perils of the sea. Through meticulous analysis and interpretation, archaeologists pieced together the story of the Ses Fontanelles and its journey across the waves.

Details Revealed by the New Study

The culmination of these efforts came with the publication of findings by Spanish researchers, illuminating the composition and origins of the ship’s cargo in unprecedented detail. From fish sauce to wine, fruit preserves, and olive oil, the provisions stowed aboard the Ses Fontanelles spoke to the richness of trade and the culinary preferences of ancient Romans.

C: Jose A. Moya/Arqueomallornaua/Consell de Mallorca,

Of particular interest was the discovery of a previously unseen type of amphora, its distinctive shape hinting at its place of origin and the unique role it played in the maritime networks of antiquity. Equally fascinating was the analysis of fermented fish sauce, or garum, a prized delicacy in the ancient world, whose ingredients and production methods offered tantalizing clues to its cultural significance.

Preservation of the Shipwreck for Public Viewing

As the scholarly community grappled with the implications of the Ses Fontanelles discovery, efforts were already underway to ensure its preservation for future generations. Recognizing the importance of making archaeology accessible to all, plans were set in motion to conserve the shipwreck and create opportunities for public engagement and education.

An amphora jar and the fish remnants found within it. C: Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

For Jaume Cardell, head of archaeology at the Consell de Mallorca, the mission was clear: to democratize archaeology and share the wonders of the past with people from all walks of life. By preserving the Ses Fontanelles and showcasing it to the world, archaeologists hoped to foster a deeper appreciation for history and the enduring legacy of ancient civilizations.


In conclusion, the story of the Ses Fontanelles shipwreck is more than a mere footnote in history; it is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring legacy of the past. As efforts continue to preserve and study this remarkable find, it promises to unlock new chapters in the annals of maritime history and inspire future generations to explore the mysteries of the deep.

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