The world’s oldest intact shipwreck، complete with mast، rudders and rowing benches، has been found at the bottom of the Black Sea where it has been lying for more than 2،400 years، the times reported.
The 23-metre merchant vessel was found lying on its side by a remote-controlled submarine. British scientists from the Black Sea Maritime Archaeological Project، which found the wreck، said its location — about 50 miles off the coast of Bulgaria — revealed how far from shore ancient Greek traders ventured.
It also showed the accuracy of the Siren Painter، an ancient Greek who decorated wine vessels، including one now in the British Museum showing Odysseus tied to the mast of a remarkably similar ship.
Rowing benches lying in the wreck are also similar to those on which Odysseus’s sailors sat with their ears blocked with wax so they could not hear the enchanting song of bird-women luring them to an island’s rocky coast.
“Nobody has ever known how accurate the representation on the Siren Vase was and whether the artist was making it up or drawing what he saw،” said Jon Adams، professor of archaeology at the University of Southampton and chief scientist of the team that found the wreck.
“Now we see archaeological evidence showing a ship very close in detail، even down to the shape of the rudder blade. The artist must have been familiar with ships.”
He said that the lack of oxygen below 490ft in the Black Sea meant that wooden wrecks were preserved long after they would have been consumed by marine organisms in other seas.
“We have very few pieces of ship of this age and nothing of this type from the Greek world before،” he added.
He said that the ship، which was both oar and sail-powered، would have been primarily used for trading but the sailors may also have been involved in “a little bit of raiding” of Black Sea coastal communities.
It was probably based at one of the ancient Greek settlements on the coast of what is modern Bulgaria. Professor Adams said the location of the wreck، 50 miles from land، revealed that “ancient seafarers were not hugging the coast timidly going from port to port but going blue-water sailing”.
The ship is one of 67 wrecks found by the project in the past three years using remote-controlled submarines operated from vessels that are normally employed in the offshore oil and gas industry.
Other wrecks found include a Roman trading vessel from AD200 from which the team managed to recover amphorae. They also discovered 1،200 year-old wrecks from the Byzantine Empire، a medieval Italian vessel and some from the Ottoman period from the 16th to the 18th centuries.
“These wrecks reveal a story of intensive maritime traffic connecting all the communities around the Black Sea from its earliest times،” Professor Adams said. He added that there would be even older wrecks lying undiscovered at the bottom of the Black Sea as less than 5 per cent of the area most heavily used by ancient ships had been surveyed.
It is not yet known if the ancient Greek ship was carrying cargo because the interior is covered in silt which the scientists hope to remove if funding can be found for another expedition.
The project، funded by the Julia and Hans Rausing Trust، was not seeking wrecks but was mapping the ancient landscape of the Black Sea، which was inundated thousands of years ago after waters rose as glaciers melted following the last Ice Age.