A team of researchers has discovered what is being hailed as the oldest intact shipwreck in the world over a mile beneath the surface of the Black Sea. At that depth, oxygen is not present, so marine life is almost completely absent and bacteria do not grow, allowing an amazing preservation of any artifacts found there. The Washington Post reports that the depth of the shipwreck also makes it out of reach for most divers, which is why it has remained on the sea floor for so long. The ship measures about 7,500 feet in length and is believed to date back over 2,400 years according to the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project team, making it the oldest intact shipwreck ever discovered. The preservation of the ship is awe-inspiring with its rudders, rowing benches, and contents still intact 2,400 years after it fell to the bottom of the sea.
BBC reports that the ship bears a striking resemblance to a ship portrayed on ancient wine vases from Greece. An example is the Siren Vase in the British Museum that shows Odysseus strapped to the mast of a ship as rowers move the ship through waters with mystical sea nymphs whose songs were believed to drive sailors to their deaths fly above them.
It is just one of over 60 ships that were discovered. The team stated that others discovered during their three-year project include a Cossack raiding fleet from the 17th century and multiple Roman trading vessels with period artifacts still aboard.
Researchers created a 3-D image of the ship using underwater robotic equipment and removed a sample for carbon dating its age. Team member Helen Farr described watching the equipment do its work as a trip back in time.
“It’s like another world. It’s when the ROV drops down through the water column and you see this ship appear in the light at the bottom so perfectly preserved it feels like you step back in time.”
The team’s website explains that they conducted their research remotely through the use of sonar and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). Through their work, they hoped to learn more about ancient civilization. Combining archaeology and geophysics, the Bulgarian team sought to learn more about their heritage and uncover environmental records that would provide some insight into the natural environment of present-day Bulgaria. A documentary covering the team’s work and discoveries will soon be released. Their website states that the team investigated the depths of the Black Sea in order to learn how changes in sea level impacted ancient civilizations.