Archaeology: World’s oldest intact shipwreck ‘changed’ scientific understanding | Science | News
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Black Sea shipwrecks are generally very well preserved compared to those discovered in similar periods in different areas, especially the Mediterranean, due to the low oxygen levels in the shallow waters. Maritime archaeologists and oceanographers therefore use the waters of the Black Sea to uncover the secrets of ancient civilizations in southeastern Europe and western Asia. When ancient humans began building colonies, the Mediterranean and Black Seas became crucial highways for trade and travel.
Four years ago, archaeologists made a groundbreaking discovery: the oldest known intact shipwreck in the world.
The 23-meter vessel is believed to have stood still off the coast of Bulgaria, at the bottom of the Black Sea, for some 2,400 years.
More than 2,000 meters below the surface, her mast, rudders and oar benches were still complete.
It is believed to be an ancient Greek vessel and closely resembles the vessels that decorated ancient Greek wine vessels two millennia ago.
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The remains of the ancient Greek ship lying at the bottom of the Black Sea.
The wreckage was found in the Black Sea, 80 km from the Bulgarian city of Bourgas.
Professor Jon Adams, a maritime archaeologist at the Black Sea Maritime Archeology, said at the time: “An intact surviving ship from the classical world, lying in over two kilometers of water, is something I wouldn’t never thought possible.
“It will change our understanding of shipbuilding and navigation in the ancient world.”
The team left the ship on the seabed where it was found, but a group from the University of Southampton carbon dated a small piece of it and claimed the results were “confirmed”. [it] as the oldest intact wreck known to mankind”.
The ship, which dates from 400 BC. J.-C., was found on the side in a remarkable state of preservation because the water is anoxic, that is to say without oxygen.
Other wrecks in the Black Sea are remarkably well preserved because the water is anoxic.
Given the depth at which it is found, it is beyond the reach of modern divers.
Dr Helen Farr, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton, told the BBC: “It’s like another world.
“That’s when the ROV [remote operated vehicle] descends through the water column and you see this ship appear in the light at the bottom so perfectly preserved it makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
She added: “It’s preserved, that’s for sure.
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The Siren Vase, which sees Odysseus tied to the mast of the ship.
“It does not deteriorate and is unlikely to attract hunters.”
Archeology teams used two robotic underwater explorers to map a 3D image of the vessel during surveys 80 kilometers off the Bulgarian city of Burgas.
The vessel, one of 67 discovered over three years of academic research, bears similarities to the so-called Siren Painter seen on the British Museum’s Siren Vase.
The vase, which dates from 480 BC. AD, shows the legendary Greek king Odysseus tied to the mast of his ship as he sails past three mythical sea nymphs, whose melody is said to have led sailors to death.
The Black Sea has been called “a rich museum of human history”.
The ship’s cargo is so far unknown and would allow the team to improve their understanding of navigation two millennia ago.
Dr Farr said: ‘Normally we find amphoras (wine vessels) and can guess where they came from, but with this they are still in the hold.
“As archaeologists, we are interested in what it can tell us about technology, trade and movement in the region.”
The anoxic layer makes up more than 90% of the volume of the Black Sea, preventing the physical and chemical processes that lead to the decay of ships discovered in UK waters, for example.
Wood and rope are usually the first things to fall overboard as bacteria eat away at the material, but these bacteria cannot survive without oxygen.
Instead, vessels discovered in the Black Sea may be so well preserved that individual chisel and tool marks can still be seen.
The ancient Greek vessel reinforces the idea that the waters of the Black Sea are “an incredibly rich museum of human history”, according to National Geographic’s Fredrik Hiebert.
He said: “This wreck shows the unprecedented preservation potential of the Black Sea, which has been a critical crossroads of world cultures for thousands of years.”