Maritime History Just Got Richer

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The Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project says the intact shipwreck was discovered at a depth of more than 1 mile, where the scarcity of oxygen helped preserve the ancient vessel. Black Sea MAP/EEF Expeditions

Who knew there were still such discoveries to be made? Obviously, someone did. And Homer’s epic tale of Odysseus and his journeys plays a part in this story:

‘Oldest Intact Shipwreck Known To Mankind’ Found In Depths Of Black Sea

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The recently discovered shipwreck reveals details that are similar to the ship on this famed ancient Greek vase, which dates to the fifth century B.C. and depicts Odysseus tied to the mast to brave the sirens.
Universal Images Group/Getty Images

More than a mile beneath the surface of the Black Sea, shrouded in darkness, an ancient Greek ship sat for millennia unseen by human eyes — until the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project happened upon its watery grave last year.

The team announced the find Tuesday, saying its discovery has been “confirmed as the oldest intact shipwreck known to mankind.” Radiocarbon-dated to roughly 400 B.C., the trading vessel plied the waves in the days of Plato and Sophocles, when the city-states of ancient Greece had scattered colonies all around the Black Sea.

Since then, it has sat at a depth that more than doubles the height of the tallest skyscraper in the world. In water that deep, oxygen is hard to come by, and because of that, so too are the organic processes that help drive decomposition. That left the ship all but undisturbed until the research team discovered it — along with dozens of other shipwrecks — during an 800-square-mile survey of the seabed.

“A ship, surviving intact, from the Classical world, lying in over 2km of water, is something I would never have believed possible,” Jon Adams, an archaeology professor at the University of Southampton and the group’s principal investigator, said in a statement released Tuesday. “This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world.”

For one example of the ship’s value, the team pointed to a very different kind of vessel — pottery. The group says ships of the design they found last year had previously only been found in artwork such as the Siren Vase, an artifact dated several decades earlier than the ship.

The vase depicts a scene from The Odyssey, in which Odysseus is strapped to the mast as he passes the deadly sirens. Now, according to MAP, they know it also depicts a representation of real trading vessels used around the same era as their find…

Read the whole story here.

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