World's oldest intact shipwreck discovered in Black Sea

Hannah Rogers
October 26, 2018

Marine archaeologists have discovered what they say is the world's oldest intact shipwreck, at 2,400 years old, in the Black Sea.

The Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project, comprised of maritime archaeologists, scientists and marine surveyors, found the Greek trading vessel lying off the Bulgarian coast at a depth of 1.2 miles.

According to reports, the research team is planning on leaving the find at the bottom of the Black Sea but used a small piece of it for carbon dating.

The vessel was typical of Greek trading ships that sailed the Black Sea coast to supply the empire's colonies.

There's a vase in the British Museum decorated with an image of Greek hero Odysseus tied to the mast of his ship as it passes the singing Sirens. Interestingly, the sunken vessel dates back to the same time period as the vase, which is believed to have been painted around 480 BC.

Numerous ships fit the description of trading vessels described or depicted in ancient literature and drawings, but never seen until now.

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The project is focused on understanding sea level change, through geophysical surveys of the sea floor. The Black Sea is the largest body of water in the world with a meromictic basin-meaning deep waters don't mix with the upper layers that get oxygen from the atmosphere.

"Normally we find amphorae [wine vases] and can guess where it's come from, but with this it's still in the hold", said Dr Farr.

While older intact sailing vessels have been recovered from Egyptian burial sites on land, it is unusual for submerged ancient wrecks to be preserved so well. And the Black Sea is fed by freshwater from the surrounding land, which floats on top of the saltier water closer to the bottom.

Over the course of three years the academic expedition found 67 wrecks including Roman trading ships and a 17th Century Cossack trading fleet.

The main goal of the Black Sea MAP is to understand changes that have occurred since the last ice age, when the sea was much lower. Robots, on the other hand, can go much farther, and the expedition team was incredibly lucky to have located the wreck.

As Prof Adams says: "This assemblage must comprise one of the finest underwater museums of ships and seafaring in the world".

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