Black Sea MAP / EEF Expeditions
More than a mile below the surface of the Black Sea, shrouded in darkness, an ancient Greek ship sat unnoticed by human eyes for millennia – until last year's Maritime Archeology Project on the Black Sea on its water grave.
Crew announced the find Tuesday, saying its discovery has been "confirmed as the oldest intact shipwreck known to humanity." Radiocarbon-dated to about 400 BC The merchant ship rippled in the days of Plato and Sophocles when the city-states of ancient Greece scattered colonies around the Black Sea.
Since then it sits at a depth that more than doubles the height of the tallest skyscraper in the world. In deep water, oxygen is hard to find, and so are the organic processes that promote decomposition. This left the ship undisturbed until the research team spotted it along with dozens of other shipwrecks during a 800 square mile survey of the seafloor.
"An intact ship from the classic world that lies near 2km of water, I would never have thought possible," said Jon Adams, archeology professor at the University of Southampton and the group's lead researcher, in a statement released on Tuesday , "This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in antiquity."
As an example of the ship's value, the team pointed to a very different kind of pottery – pottery. The group says that ships of the design they found last year had previously only been found in artworks such as the Siren Vase, an artifact dated a few decades earlier than the ship.
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The vase depicts a scene The Odyssey in which Odysseus is tied to the mast as he passes the deadly sirens. Well, according to MAP, they know that it also shows a representation of real merchant ships used at the same time as their find.
"It's like another world," said Helen Farr, a member of the expedition, the BBC. "When the ROV [remote operated vehicle] falls through the water column and you see how this ship appears in the light, so perfectly preserved, it feels like you're stepping back in time."
But ancient Greece is not the only bygone age to reveal itself under the waves.
In the three years that the Black Sea has been explored, the group has discovered more than 60 sunken ships – from old boats such as the announced Tuesday to ships of more modern design. These include a 17th-century raiding fleet founded by the Cossacks, who then settled north of the Black Sea near the border between modern Russia and Ukraine.
The team publishes a documentary on its discoveries on Tuesday The British Museum offers an insight into the archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert, who has called "an incredibly rich museum of human history."
"This wreck shows the unprecedented conservation potential in the Black Sea, which was a critical crossroads of world cultures thousands of years ago," he told National Geographic. "It's an incredible find."