An illustration of a sunken ship. YAYIMAGES.

2,000-Year-Old Roman Shipwreck Found Off the Coast of Croatia

Not far from the Croatian city of Zadar, archeologists have discovered a Roman shipwreck believed to be some 2,000 years old.


The Adriatic Sea is a place full of wonders. Its coast is a treasure trove of history. I happen to live there, on the Adriatic coast. Not far from where I currently reside, underwater archaeologists have made a stunning find. A wooden Roman ship over 2,000 years old has been discovered by archaeologists from Zadar in the sea off Sukošan at a depth of only two meters. The find was confirmed by Mladen Pešić, the director of the Croatian International Center for Underwater Archaeology, according to news outlet Zadarski. The ancient port of Barbir near Sukošan was discovered in 1973, and until recently, only its surface had been documented, thanks to archaeologist Boris Ilakovac’s research.

Parallel to excavating a Roman villa on the mainland, which suffered significant damage due to modernization, archeologists began working extensively in the area in 2017. This extensive research project is fortunate in that part of the site under the sea is well preserved.

A large ship

So far, nine meters of the boat’s length have been exposed. The boat is about three meters wide. Despite the damage caused by shipworms (Teredo navalis), the rest of the wood remains in incredibly good condition. This is due to the wood’s prolonged preservation in the sand. “We reached the middle of the ship with the help of this investigation. A photo is taken of each element of the ship, and based on this, archaeologists will draw a plan for it. Unlike most ancient ships, which sank and were left deformed at the bottom of the sea, this one retained its shape, Pešić explained. Researchers have resurfaced and sent samples of some of the wooden elements of the wreck. These have now been sent to a laboratory in France for analysis.


By identifying the material, Pešić explains that they will be able to determine whether the product is local or from another region. Many materials from all over the Mediterranean, ranging from Greece and Italy to Africa, have already been found in the port,” he said.

Research to continue next year

A new research phase will continue next year to discover the second half of the ship, according to Pešić. Sand, geotextile, and stone layers will protect the site until then. This has proven to be an effective method of protecting it from all underwater conditions. “If we have the opportunity and enough space, we’d like to have it on display one day,” the expert said. Even though Roman ships have been found in various places worldwide, they have never been displayed or visible anywhere in Croatia. This is a tragic fact, considering the country’s immense maritime heritage.


Croatia is a country located on the Adriatic sea and is one of the most-visited tourist destinations in Europe. It is also home to historic cities such as Dubrovnik, where parts of the famous series The Game of Thrones were filmed. The country has around 1,144 larger and smaller islands. However, only 67 of the islands are inhabited. Thanks to this large number of islands and islets, Croatia is one of the most diverse countries on the Adriatic Coast, as well as in the rest of the world. Each of these islands is home to a unique history. Also, it has beautiful sights and coasts that attract an increasing number of tourists annually.


(The featured image is just an illustration. For an image gallery of the shipwreck, click here.)

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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