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SECRETS OF THE DEAD: Lost Ships Of Rome

Airs Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Craig Mullen and Timmy Gambin with a Roman mortar from 1st century BC, from "Secrets Of The Dead: Lost Ships Of Rome."

In 2009 a team of marine archeologists carrying out a sonar survey of the seabed around the remote Italian island of Ventotene made an astonishing discovery. The wrecks of five ancient Roman ships were found in pristine condition, each one fully laden with exotic goods. Remarkably, much of the cargo remained exactly as the ancient Roman crews had loaded it, suggesting that these ships had not capsized but had gone to the bottom of the sea intact and upright. What happened to these ancient ships? What were they carrying and why had they traveled to this remote, rocky island in the first place?

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View stills and images of individuals featured in "Lost Ships Of Rome."

The crew of the Aurora Trust on board their ship, the Fortaleza, in Ventotene port.
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Above: The crew of the Aurora Trust on board their ship, the Fortaleza, in Ventotene port.

In June 2010, the team returns to Ventotene to investigate the wrecks, with the blessing of the Italian government. The island where this ‘graveyard’ of ships was found holds significance in ancient Roman history: Emperors banished defiant women into exile there.

But as this was essentially a royal prison, an extravagant palace was built on the island to house the captive women. The massive underground galleries that supplied the villa with water can still be explored today. Their walls are still covered in the original Roman plaster. Were the ships carrying supplies to this island of exiled misery?

"Lost Ships Of Rome" follows the team as they explore the sites in detail, salvage artifacts and piece together the history of the ships and why they were lost at Ventotene two thousand years ago. Actor Liev Schreiber ("Salt" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine") narrates.

SECRETS OF THE DEAD is on Facebook.

Video

Preview: Secrets Of The Dead: Lost Ships Of Rome

Above: "Secrets Of The Dead: Lost Ships Of Rome" - In 2009 a team of marine archeologists carrying out a sonar survey of the seabed around the remote Italian island of Ventotene made an astonishing discovery. The wrecks of five ancient Roman ships were found in pristine condition, each one fully laden with exotic goods. Remarkably, much of the cargo remained exactly as the ancient Roman crews had loaded it, suggesting that these ships had not capsized but had gone to the bottom of the sea intact and upright.

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