Roman-era boat found off Italy coast 'almost intact'

Part of the police diving team with a recovered amphora The divers say between 200 and 250 amphorae may be on the ship

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Divers say they have discovered a ship off the coast of Italy which they believe is about 2,000 years old.

The ship, which was found in the sea off the town on Varazze in the province of Liguria, is thought to be a Roman-era commercial vessel.

Fishermen in the area said they had been finding shards of pottery in their nets for years, prompting police divers to launch a search.

The ship is said to be in a very well-preserved condition.

"The peculiarity of this is that the wreck could be almost intact," Lt Col Francesco Schilardi of the police divers' group told the BBC.

"We believe it dates to sometime between the 1st Century BC and the 1st Century AD," Lt Col Schilardi said.

The mud on the seabed had hidden but also protected the wreck, he added.

The divers say that study of the vessel should help to understand commercial activity in that era.

The ship is thought to have travelled on trade routes between Spain and what is now central Italy and was loaded with more than 200 clay amphorae likely to have contained fish, wine, oil and grain.

The group of divers who found the vessel say it would be technically feasible to raise it, the BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome reports.

However, it will now be up to the Italian authorities to decide whether to launch any such complex and expensive operation, our correspondent adds.

For the moment, the area has been secured, and no fishing or passage of any other boats will be allowed, Lt Col Schilardi said.

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