Roman ship discovered off Croatian coast

A 2,000-year-old Roman wooden boat has been discovered in the shallow waters of the Adriatic off the coast of central Croatia. The boat is about 10 feet wide and so far marine archaeologists have uncovered about 30 feet of its length. The edges of the boat have been ravaged by shipworms, but the bulk of the hull has survived in good condition, preserved under layers of sand.

The wreck was found in 2021 when maritime archaeologists spotted Roman coins on the seabed next to a single wooden board. They returned to the site this year and excavated the find site, revealing the hull. It was less than seven feet under the surface of the water, buried among the remains of the Roman port town of Barbir.

“The ancient port of Barbir near Sukošan was discovered in 1973, and for a long time it was documented only on the surface, thanks to research by archaeologist Boris Ilakovac. In 2017, new, more serious work began in the area, in parallel with the research on a Roman villa on the mainland, which was significantly damaged due to modern construction. Luckily, part of the site under the sea is well preserved,” said [Mladen Pešić, director of the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology in Zadar] who is also the head of this extensive research project.

Since excavations resumed five years ago, archaeologists have focused on the Roman pier, some of which is still visible above the water today. The team discovered that the pier was built in two phases: in the 1st century A.D. and then extended in the 4th century.

The vessel has been labelled and documented, but the work is not finished yet. The team will return to the site next year and continue to excavate the boat. Meanwhile, they have released some beautifully clear video of the work they did underwater. It’s not often you get to see marine archaeologists go about their business in ideal visibility conditions.