The oldest intact shipwreck in the world discovered

Greek merchant ship sank 2, 400 years ago in the Black Sea

This Greek shipwreck sank 2, 400 years ago in the Black Sea. It is the oldest intact wreck ever. © Black Sea MAP / University of Southampton
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Spectacular find: In the Black Sea, researchers have discovered the world's oldest intact shipwreck. The Greek merchant ship sank around 400 BC and belongs to a type that was previously known only from ancient figures. The wreck lies at a depth of around 2, 000 meters and thus in a zone in which the water of the Black Sea is almost free of oxygen - this prevented the wood from decaying.

The Black Sea, like the Mediterranean, was one of the centers of early civilization: its shores bordered on many ancient and ancient empires. According to some hypotheses, even the story of the Flood could have its origins here when an early civilization was destroyed by the sudden influx of seawater on the Bosphorus. Later it was mainly the Greeks who founded numerous trading bases and colonies on the Black Sea, where they engaged in brisk shipping.

Wreckage at two kilometers depth

A spectacular testimony of this era has now been discovered by underwater archaeologists of the Black Sea Maritime Archeology Project. Originally, the mapping of approximately 2, 000 square kilometers of seabed was mainly to explore the changes in the Black Sea since the last ice age. But the researchers found unexpectedly many well-preserved shipwrecks - including the current find.

The archaeologists discovered a shipwreck off the Bulgarian coast in less than two kilometers of water, as they had never seen it before: a Greek merchant ship that was still completely intact - from the mast and the rowing benches to the steering wheel and fuselage. "It literally looks like it just fell yesterday, " says one of the project's collaborators in a video.

The wreck and its discovery © Black Sea MAP

Oldest intact wreck in the world

Dating of a wreck wood sample showed that this ship must have sunk to about 400 BC - it is more than 2, 400 years old and the oldest shipwreck intact so far. "A ship that survives under two kilometers of ancient water is something I never thought possible before, " says Jon Adams of the University of Southampton. display

The shipwreck owes its unusually good preservation to the special conditions in the Black Sea: Because this inland sea only gets a bit of fresh, oxygen-rich water over the narrow Bosphorus, its lower water layers are almost free of oxygen. There is hardly any life in this "death zone", but at the same time there is hardly any decomposition and this ensured that the shipwreck was preserved as in a time capsule.

The "Sirens Vase" shows the ship type of the wreck British Museum

So far only known from antique vases

And one more thing about this wreck is that it belongs to a type of ship that used to be known only from antique pictures. One of them can be found on the "siren vase", a vase that shows in red paint on a black ground one of the adventures of Odysseus: The legendary hero is tied to the mast of his ship, so he does not have the enticing Ges victim of the sirens.

"This find will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world, " says Adams. "There are ships down there that you've never seen before, except for frescoes or paintings." Over the last three years, Project Team has discovered more than 60 shipwrecks on the Black Sea bottom. Among the finds are Roman merchant ships with their cargo, but also ships of a war fleet of the Cossacks from the 17th century, as the archaeologists report. They suspect that there are still countless other wrecks and finds hidden at the bottom of this sea.

(University of Southampton, 24.10.2018 - NPO)