The Mediterranean Sea is one of the most dangerous areas for ships, and Keith Reef is one of the most dangerous areas in the region. The rocky uplands here reach almost the surface of the water at one point, making it an invisible trap for ships. This explains why dozens of shipwrecks have already been discovered in this region.
But for archaeologists, the Whale Reef has become a real treasure trove. During a mission to Skerki Shoal, they were able to make a detailed bathymetric map of the seafloor around Keith Reef, which allowed them to locate three recently found shipwrecks. One dates from between 100 B.C. and 200 A.D., and the other two date to the late 19th or early 20th centuries.
The first ship found was a late 19th or early 20th century motorized metal vessel. No trace of any cargo was found, which may indicate that there was none, or that the cargo was perishable. The fact that there is no indication of any lifeboats may indicate that the crew managed to leave the ship before it sank.
“This discovery underscores the importance of preserving underwater cultural heritage and our efforts to protect it for future generations.”
The second shipwreck is about the same age, but wooden and probably not motorized. Again, no cargo was found, and since this wreck was smaller (15 meters [50 feet] in length), the crew suggests it may have been a fishing boat.
However, the third and final new discovery is much older. Probably a Roman merchant ship, the team dates it between the end of the first century B.C. and the middle of the second century A.D. It is assumed that it may have contained wine, as the remains of some amphorae were also found.
This discovery not only allows us to learn more about the trade routes of antiquity and their importance to the economy of those times, but also poses an important challenge for the preservation of underwater cultural heritage. As the UNESCO statement says: “This discovery highlights the importance of preserving underwater cultural heritage and our efforts to protect it for future generations.