You know, whenever I pause and think about all the mystery of the ocean, it honestly boggles my mind. Seriously, we almost take for granted just how much is utterly unknown about the sub-aquatic world. There's so much we don't know about life under the sea, and what mysterious organisms subside in ocean trenches and caverns miles from the surface. Not only that, but there are all the shipwrecks to consider; all the old vessels that have sunk under the waves, that might hold untold treasures within them.
Now, researchers from the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project have managed to discover the world's oldest shipwreck in a well-known 'ship graveyard.' The 75 foot Greek trading vessel was found along with 67 other ancient sunken ships, lying whole on the sea floor with its rudders, rowing benches masts still unbroken after more than 2,000 years - making it older than Christ.
A remote-controlled submarine discovered the ancient Greek ship resting approximately 50 miles off the coast of Bulgaria, lying in over 1.3 miles of water deep in the Black Sea. In this environment, the water was anoxic, which meant that its timbers, and the other organic material it was composed of, would be preserved for thousands of years. The ship has been carbon-dated, and scientists working at the University of Southampton a have since confirmed that it was constructed sometime in 400 BC.
Commenting on the remarkable discovery, project’s chief scientist Jon Adams stated: "A ship, surviving intact, from the Classical world, lying in over 2km of water, is something I would never have believed possible. This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world ... This assemblage must comprise one of the finest underwater museums of ships and seafaring in the world."
Ed Parker, CEO of Black Sea MAP, added: "Some of the ships we discovered had only been seen on murals and mosaics until this moment. There's one medieval trading vessel where the towers on the bow and stern are pretty much still there. It's as if you are looking at a ship in a movie, with ropes still on the deck and carvings in the wood. When I saw that ship, the excitement really started to mount – what we have found is truly unrivalled."
The ship is believed to be a type of trading vessel which has previously only ever appeared in murals and artwork on pottery, depicting the hero of the Trojan war Odysseus foiling the sirens by lashing himself to his ship's mast.
Having an actual intact example of this kind of boat means that archaeologists can learn an incredible amount about marine architecture in antiquity, as well as about what kind of cargo it was bearing. More data on the ship's origins, (and other facts related to the discovery) is due to be published at the Black Sea MAP conference at the Wellcome Collection in London later this week.