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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Divers with a Florida-based group called Global Underwater Explorers are helping Italian researchers to unlock an ancient shipwreck thought to date to the second Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage.

Able to descend hundreds of feet farther than most divers, they are assisting the archeologists by swimming about the wreck and recovering artifacts as no robotic submersible can.

In one recent dive, they descended 410 feet into waters off Italy, their lights revealing the skeleton of a ship that sank thousands of years ago when Rome was a world power.

They swam past the large amphoras used to carry wine, olive oil, and other cargo on Mediterranean trade routes centuries ago — feeling as if they were transported to another time.

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Called the Panarea III, the ship, thought to have sailed around 218-210 B.C., was discovered off the Aeolian island of Panarea in 2010 by US researchers using sonar and a remotely operated submersible in waters about 40 miles north of Sicily.

Archeologists said the ship is a wooden vessel about 50 feet long that could have hit rough seas and broken up on rocks.

Associated Press