Archeologists Discover Ancient Roman ‘Ketchup’ on 2,000-Year-Old Shipwreck

Researchers discovered thousands of vessels of garum, a popular Roman fish sauce that was used much like ketchup
Archeologists Discover Ancient Roman ‘Ketchup’ on 2,000-Year-Old Shipwreck

Photo Modified: Flickr/Steven Depolo/CC 2.0

Thousands of clay pots of carrying a popular ancient condiment are thought to have contributed to the ship’s sinking off the Italian coast. 

Italian archeologists have discovered the remains of centuries-old garum — a fermented fish sauce used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and sometimes described as the ancient answer to ketchup — aboard a 2,000-year-old sunken ship.

The ship, discovered off the Italian coast, was carrying an estimated 3,000 clay pots of garum, which may have been the vessel’s downfall. Garum, which is mentioned in Roman literature as early as the third century B.C., was popular as a substitute to salt, and typically contained fish paste and aromatic herbs.

According to the Local, garum was popular throughout all of Roman society, typically found often on street food stands as well as banquet tables. Garum is also a naturally occurring source of monosodium glutamate or MSG, an amino acid commonly used as a flavor enhancer.

The discovery also tells researchers about the ship’s intended route and mission, which was likely a delivery of local wines along with the ubiquitous condiment.  

“She most likely sailed out of Rome along the Tiber and sank a couple of weeks later while making the return journey, weighed down by all that fish sauce,” Dr. Simon Luca Trigona, who lead the research team, told the Local.” 

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