The World’s Oldest Intact Shipwreck Has Been Discovered at the Bottom of Black Sea

Experts see a resemblance to the ships depicted on the ancient Greek vases at the British Museum.

Video still via The Guardian.

A marvel of Greek antiquity may have been found one mile under the Black Sea. Maritime archaeologists have discovered an incredibly well-preserved ship, measuring 75 feet and complete with a mast still standing, and rudders and rowing benches still in position. Scientists believe the vessel could have a significant impact on our understanding of ancient seafaring.

“There are ships down there that have never been seen, apart from in murals, paintings, and in books,” says the expedition’s CEO Edward Parker in a documentary shown on the Guardian. Powered by sails and oarsmen, the fleet would have employed a 15- to 25-person crew.

An Anglo-Bulgarian team, the Black Sea Maritime Archeology Project, found the ancient boat off the coast of Bulgaria. Using robotic explorers (the seabed is beyond the reach of modern divers), they mapped out a 3D image of the vessel and managed to date it back to 400BC. Their three-year expedition has discovered 67 wrecks, including Roman trade ships.

From the British Museum, via Wikimedia Commons.

Researchers believe the ship is of Greek origin because it resembles the trading shapes seen on ancient Greek pottery. It is bears similarity to the one depicted on the The Siren Vase at the British Museum in London, which dates back to around the same time. The ceramic, made by the so-called “Siren Painter,” shows Odysseus strapped to the ship’s mast in an attempt to avoid the deadly call of three mythical sirens.

The ship’s cargo remains unknown, and the scientists will need to raise funds to return again and try to access what might be contained within it. Further data about the find will be revealed in London later this week at the Black Sea MAP conference, held at the Wellcome Collection.


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