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World’s largest intact shipwreck disovered in the Black Sea, thought to be over 2,400 years old

Archeologists have discovered the world’s oldest shipwreck at the bottom of the Black See where it has rested undisturbed for over 2,500 years. The vessel reportedly dates back to 200 BCE.

The 23-metre vessel is believed to be ancient Greek, and was discovered with its mast, rudders, and rowing benches all present just a mile below the surface. Researchers claim the lack of oxygen at that depth preserved the wreckage. The vessel was so well preserved that the monkfish bones the sailors had eaten were intact on the deck.

“We even have the coils of line, of rope still as the bosun left them in the stern when the ship went down,” said Dr. Batchvarov, a member of the expedition. “This is unique.”

“A ship surviving intact from the classical world, lying in over 2km of water, is something I would never have believed possible,” said Professor Jon Adams, the principal investigator with the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (MAP). “This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world.”

The Black Sea project is a long-time scientific investigation, led by global institutions like the University of Southampton. It explores the ways in which the Black Sea has changed overtime. Funded by the Julia and Hans Rausing Trust, the project cost over USD$15 million.

The findings have ranged from a “17th-century Cossack raiding fleet, through Roman trading vessels, complete with amphorae, to a complete ship from the classical period”. In addition to the shipwrecks, the survey has revealed a Bronze Age settlement, which has been deluged below the sea bed.

Some of the tech used by the expedition were advanced geophysical techniques that allowed scientists to see what was on the seabed, and even beneath it. In addition, the remotely operated vehicles were also to map the sea bed and take 3D images. In past research expeditions, this equipment was usually carried on the boat.

The ship is said to be a type of trading vessel that has previously only been seen “on the side of ancient Greek pottery such as the ‘Siren Vase’ in the British Museum”. The ‘Siren Vase’ dates back from the same period, and displays a similar vessel next to the Greek Hero Odysseus.

According to the Guardian, the team intended to leave the vessel in its original spot, but confirmed that a small piece of carbon was examined by the University of Southampton. The results “confirmed [it] as the oldest intact shipwreck known to mankind”.

The MAP project’s documentary team made a 2-hour film that will be shown at the British Museum this week.