Researchers Have Discovered the World's Oldest Intact Shipwreck in the Black Sea

Illustration for article titled Researchers Have Discovered the World's Oldest Intact Shipwreck in the Black Sea
Photo: Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project
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Archaeologists searching the depths of the Black Sea discovered an intact shipwreck at the bottom that’s been there for at least 2,400 years. They believe it to be the world’s oldest intact wreck, which is incredibly cool.


The wreck is 75 feet in length and lying on its side. Its rudder, mast, rowing benches and cargo are completely intact, reports the Guardian. It was found just over a mile beneath the surface, where the lack of oxygen there preserved it, according to researchers with the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project, the team that discovered the ship.

They think that it was a type of merchant vessel that is similar to the one depicted on a piece of ancient Greek pottery called the “Siren Vase,” which is on display in the British Museum.

Illustration for article titled Researchers Have Discovered the World's Oldest Intact Shipwreck in the Black Sea
Photo: aaron wolpert (Flickr)

The pot, which dates from the same time period of 480 BC, shows a scene from Homer’s The Odyssey, in which Odysseus binds himself to the mast of his ship in order to resist the song of the sirens.

Over the course of the three-year project, the Greek ship is the oldest to be found out of the dozens of other shipwrecks discovered in the Black Sea. Per the Washington Post:

Using deep-sea diving robots and sonar from ships, the researchers scanned the bottom of the Black Sea, primarily looking for possible ruins of submerged ancient settlements to study the effects of melting glaciers on sea levels. But as they mapped over 770 square miles of seafloor, more than five dozen historic vessels — almost all of them astonishingly well preserved — appeared before the cameras of their remote-controlled underwater vehicles. The team believes that some of the ships were once operated by the Romans, with other vessels dating to the 17th century.


The wreck was discovered just off the coast of Bulgaria and will give researchers a great look into what kind of Greek ships sailed to the Black Sea through the Bosphorus, or what is known today as the Strait of Istanbul.


The team said that it doesn’t intend on moving the ship from its location because they are afraid that it would break, but a small sample was carbon dated to be from 400 BC by the University of Southampton, which “confirmed [it] as the oldest intact shipwreck known to mankind” according to the Guardian.

Currently, writes the BBC, nobody knows what the ship is carrying as more funding is needed if the team is to go back to the site. Our friends over at Gizmodo report that:

In addition to exploring the ship’s interior—which they would have to do using ROVs, as it’s way too deep for human divers—the researchers are hoping to learn more about Greek maritime technology, trade, and movements in the area. The project is being funded by the Julia and Hans Rausing Trust, and is reported to have cost £15 million ($19.5 million USD) to date.


Here’s to hoping that they’ll find Atlantis next.

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.


Porschebago Redux, formerly Mini Mid-life Crisis

“Intact” is a pretty generous assessment of the current condition of the wreckage.