The World's Oldest Intact Shipwreck Discovered In Black Sea

“This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world,' said Professor Jon Adams. Black Sea MAP/EEF Expeditions

A 2,400-year-old shipwreck – the oldest ever discovered intact – has been found on the bottom of the Black Sea after three years of cutting-edge mapping of the seabed.

The 23-meter (75-foot) ancient Greek merchant's vessel was discovered complete with its mast, rudders, and rowing benches. Incredibly, modern eyes have only seen this type of ship before as an illustration on the “Siren Vase”, a stunningly decorated vase depicting the ship of Odysseus, which is currently in the British Museum.

“A ship, surviving intact, from the Classical world, lying in over 2 kilometers of water, is something I would never have believed possible,” said Professor Jon Adams, Black Sea MAP’s principal investigator and Founding Director of the University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology.

“This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world.”

The Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (Black Sea MAP) first caught sight of this ancient discovery in 2017 at a depth of around 2 kilometers (1.24 miles). More recent radiocarbon dating has confirmed that the ship dates to around 400 BCE. It's managed to stay in such good condition for all these years thanks to the Black Sea’s super-salty anoxic waters which are depleted of dissolved oxygen, allowing organic matter to remain preserved for centuries.

The Black Sea has long been an important trade route between Europe and Asia, meaning it's been a hub of activity for countless cultures and civilizations, including the Greeks, Persians, Scythians, Romans, Goths, Huns, Crusaders, and Ottomans, to name but a few.

Black Sea MAP has mapped over 2,000 square kilometers (772 square feet) of the sea using technology previously only used by energy companies. Over the course of three years, the team discovered over 60 shipwrecks, ranging from vessels from the Classical period to a 17th-century Cossack raiding fleet. 

Dr Dragomir Garbov, a maritime archaeologist working on the project, explained that many of the shipwrecks "literally look as if they had sunk yesterday."

The expansive project is the subject of a new two-hour documentary, premiering tonight at the British Museum, which is hoped to be broadcasted by networks across the world.

A number of Roman shipwrecks from around 2,000 years ago have been discovered on the seabed off the northern coast of Egypt in the harbor city of Alexandria. However, these are nowhere near as well preserved as this discovery. 

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