Olive Crazy: All About Olives and Olive Oil
May 212011

Ventotene is a tiny Italian holiday island just 43 miles off the coast of Naples. It is also the site of one of the most remarkable archaeological finds in recent history.

Research archaeologists scanned the seabed surrounding the island with sonar equipment and discovered five ancient Roman shipwrecks. The ships cargoes have rested untouched on the ocean floor for more than 2,000 years. The Roman merchant ships amfori were surprisingly well preserved.

Amfori are pottery containers used in Roman times to store and transport olive oil, wine and garum, the treasures of the Roman Empire. Garum is a pungent fish sauce used by Romans to enhance the taste of their food (a bit like the fish sauce you can find at a Vietnamese restaurant), and like olive oil, it was used throughout the Roman Empire.

Ventotene was an important hub in the Roman trading Empire. When the ships sank in 100 B.C. they may have been en route from Rome to the new provinces of Hispania and Gallia, modern day Spain and France. The content of the amfori have long since vanished, but the pottery holds important clues about the shipwreck and opens a window into ancient Roman life.

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