World’s oldest intact shipwreck ‘could rewrite Ancient Greek history’

Rob Waugh

A 2,500-year-old ship found a mile beneath the surface of the Black Sea is the world’s oldest intact shipwreck, researchers say.

The 75ft vessel has lain undisturbed on the bottom, and is perfectly preserved due to the lack of oxygen at that depth.

The vessel was discovered with its mast, rudders and rowing benches in place, buried in the sand on the bottom of the Black Sea.

The shipwreck has been carbon dated to 400BC (Image: MAP)

The team used remote-controlled deep water camera systems which can provide ultra high-definition images from more than 1.2 miles below the surface.

It was found at the bottom of the Black Sea (Picture MAP)

It’s thought to have been an ancient Greek trading vessel – but it’s a type which has only previously been seen on pottery, such as the British Museum’s ‘Siren Vase’.

The vase shows Odysseus, hero of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, bound to the mast of a vessel as Sirens circle overhead, trying to lure sailors on to the rocks with their enchanting songs.


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Professor Jon Adams of the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (MAP) said, ‘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.’

Dr Kroum Batchvarov, who worked on the project, said: ‘We have complete vessel, with the masts still standing, with the quarter rudders in place.

Oxygen-free water at the shipwreck’s depth keeps organic matter preserved for thousands of years.

‘It is an incredible find. The first of its kind ever.’

‘We even have the coils of line, of rope still as the bosun left them in the stern when the ship went down. This is unique.’

It’s a ship design only previously seen on artefacts such as the ‘Siren Vase’ in the British Museum (Picture British Museum)

The vessel is so undisturbed that researchers even saw monkfish bones, remains of what the crew had been eating, on the deck.

The researchers discovered the vessel’s age using carbon dating of a small sample, but will leave the vessel where it is.

It was among 60 shipwrecks found by the MAP project, which has explored the depths of the Black Sea, with vessels from Roman trading vessels to a 17th-century Cossack raiding fleet.

The team will show off their findings in a two-hour video at the British Museum today.

It was among more than 60 shipwrecks found by the international team of maritime archaeologists, scientists and marine surveyors, which has been on a three-year mission to explore the depths of the Black Sea to gain a greater understanding of the impact of prehistoric sea-level changes.

They said the finds varied in age from a “17th-century Cossack raiding fleet, through Roman trading vessels, complete with amphorae, to a complete ship from the classical period”.

The documentary team made a two-hour film that is due to be shown at the British Museum on Tuesday.