Due to its unique shape a single amfora cannot stand on it own, but when stacked inside a ship amfori make perfect shipping containers. They create interlocking layers which makes the most out of the ship’s cargo space and keeps the ship stable out on the open ocean.
The fate of these lost Roman merchant ships was determined by the unpredictable nature of the Mediterranean Sea. Sea storms can roll in without warning and have disastrous effects.
On the high seas the stacked amfori become a liability and with too much pressure they will start to break. The amfori system of interlocking layers collapses and as a result the ship becomes unbalanced and lists to one side. The ship becomes vulnerable to the waves and can take on water. Before long the ship, its crew and valuable cargo begin to sink to the sea floor.
That was unfortunately the fate of these five Roman ships as they sailed on the Mediterranean Sea with their cargo of olive oil, wine and garum – the treasures of the Roman Empire.