Ancient Fish Tank in Roman Shipwreck?

Archeologists are constantly uncovering artifacts and clues to ancient life that is surprising. Recently, an investigation of an ancient Roman shipwreck has revealed that it may have been outfitted with an unexpected feature. In this article, you will learn what it is and what scientists think about it.

Archeologists believe that an ancient Roman shipwreck dating back about 2,000 years old is thought to have had an aquarium meant for carrying live fish. The shipwreck was located six miles off the town of Grado in Italy when it was found by accident in 1986. Researchers estimated the age of the shipwreck as belonging to the mid-second century. Aboard, cargo of around 600 large vases (called amphoras) was discovered. The vases carried an array of fish products, including sardines and salted mackerel.

When researchers reached the hull, they noticed that there was something a bit different going on as one of the features. Close to the keel was a lead pipe that measured at least 2.7 inches wide and 51 inches long. The bottom of the vessel was pierced with a hole that allowed seawater to rise up. Scientists believe they have come across an ancient fish tank. The theory is that the pipe was connected to a hand-operated pump that sucked up water to provide a continuous flow of oxygenated water into what they believe was a fish tank kept aboard the ship.

History suggested that before the invention of freezers and other ways to keep food cold, the only way ancient people could trade fish was to salt or dry it. However, evidence tells a different story, where merchants were able to transport the fish for longer distances.

Also, there are a handful of ancient texts that allude to the fact that ancient Romans had the capacity to travel with live fish across the waters. An example of this comes from Pliny the Elder (an ancient scientist, Roman officer and historian) who wrote of the transport of parrotfish from the Black Sea to the coast of Naples.

Researchers estimate the size of the aquarium as being around 11.4 feet by 6.5 feet by 3.3 feet (3.5 m by 2 m by 1 m), which would offer a capacity of approximately 250 cubic feet (7 cubic meters) for keeping fish. If the aquarium was looked after and maintained, it is thought that at least 440 pounds of live fish could have been held aboard the ship. Some of the fish that may have called the aquarium its home was sea bass or sea bream.

If the theories concerning the aquarium pan out, then researchers have concrete evidence that ancient people were able to trade live fish. Researchers are also taking this discovery to other levels. The Istria coast is located a couple of hours by boat from the site of the shipwreck, which had a reputation for many different vivaria , enclosures used for holding live animals. Some scientists believe that ships that carried live fish may have also brought along live animals to larger markets.