When archaeologists uncover drinking vessels from the year 2021, what will they find? Detritus-encrusted jugs of Arizona Tea, maybe. Smashed bottles of kombucha and mysterious “wellness tea,” probably. Countless alcoholic seltzer cans, definitely. Turns out, historians can tell a lot about a society by its discarded beverage containers. Case in point: per Smithsonian, archaeologists off the coast of Palermo, Sicily, have discovered an ancient Roman shipwreck stuffed to the brim with amphorae, or jars used to transport wine and olive oil. Now, experts are calling it one of the most important archaeological discoveries made in the area.
Smithsonian reports that a Sicilian government body responsible for “safeguarding historical and natural objects found in marine waters” investigated the sunken ship, which dates back to the second century B.C.E. Experts apparently used an oceanographic vessel equipped with “high-precision instruments” to investigate and photograph the wreck, sitting at about 320 feet deep with a “copious cargo” of wine amphorae.
The ancient wine vessels are very cool, yes—but they also shed light on what Smithsonian calls “a period of peace and prosperity in the Mediterranean,” potentially revealing information about ancient trade routes. (Will archeologists come to a similar conclusion after discovering millions of White Claw cans 500 years from now? I somehow doubt it.)
More broadly, amphorae can hold all kinds of clues about archaeological sites, including trade links and the general habits of sites’ inhabitants. Think of it this way: if archeologists find a ship filled with wine jugs, and then they find similar jugs in other regions, it could feasibly indicate a trade link between the regions, right? That’s a definite oversimplification, but one thing is certain: these Roman sailors were rolling with some seriously precious cargo. When in Rome, do as the Romans do: chug a bunch of wine out of a stone jar.