World’s oldest shipwreck is mysterious 2,400-year-old vessel lying perfectly preserved more than a mile deep beneath sea

THE world’s oldest shipwreck has been perfectly preserved more than a mile under the sea for 2,400 years.

The Greek trading vessel was discovered in an astonishing state of preservation in the Black Sea off the Bulgarian coast and has been dated back to 400BC.

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The 2,400-year-old vessel at the bottom of the Black SeaCredit: BLACK SEA MAP/EEF EXPEDITIONS
Divers at the site of the wreckage

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Divers at the site of the wreckageCredit: YouTube
They managed to take a small piece of the vessel for researchers to carbon date

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They managed to take a small piece of the vessel for researchers to carbon dateCredit: YouTube

Found lying on its side by an Anglo-Bulgarian team in late 2017, the 75ft structure is officially the world’s oldest known intact shipwreck.

Despite thousands of years isolated almost 1.25 miles beneath the surface, the rudder, rowing benches and even the contents of its hold are as they were.

That’s thanks to the lack of oxygen at those depths, meaning organic material can be preserved for thousands of years.

It was discovered as one of 65 ship wrecks by the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (Black Sea MAP), who used advanced mapping technology to survey more than 2,000 sq km of seabed.

Also found was a 17th century Cossack raiding fleet and Roman trading vessels complete with amphorae.

But the Greek merchant ship is of a kind only previously seen on the side of ancient Greek pottery, such as the ‘Siren Vase’ in the British Museum.

Dating back to around 480 BC, the vase shows Odysseus strapped to the mast as his ship sails past three mythical sea nymphs whose tune was thought to drive sailors to their deaths.

A small piece of the vessel was taken following its discovery to be carbon dated by the research team, which confirmed the ship to be at least 2,400 years old.

A member of the expedition, Helen Farr, described the wreckage as something from “another world”.

She told the BBC: “It’s when the ROV [remote operated vehicle] 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.”

Lying more than 2,000m below the surface, the wreckage is also beyond the reach of modern divers.

“It’s preserved, it’s safe,” Farr added. “It’s not deteriorating and it’s unlikely to attract hunters.”

Also involved in the expedition was an international team of scientists led by University of Southampton experts.

Jon Adams, Professor of Archaeology at the institution, is Black Sea MAP’s principal investigator.

He said the discovery of an intact ship from the Classical world is something he never believed was possible.

“This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world,” he told the university’s website.

The University worked with the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology, and the Centre of Underwater Archaeology, both in Bulgaria, on the project.

The ships cargo remains unknown, however,

The research team said more funding would be needed if they are to return to the site.

“Normally we find amphorae (wine vases) and can guess where it’s come from, but with this it’s still in the hold,” said Dr Farr.

“As archaeologists we’re interested in what it can tell us about technology, trade and movements in the area.”

Experts have also spent decades hunting for one of the world’s most valuable shipwrecks that could have £1billion in gold onboard.

Dubbed the “El Dorado of the Sea” an English ship named the Merchant Royal sank off the coast of Cornwall leaving behind an incredible amount of riches.

And last year, a never-before-seen 17th century shipwreck was discovered.

The ship carried future Kings of England and was found buried in the sand, untouched for 350 years.

The oldest known wreck

THE recently discovered Greek merchant ship might be more than 2,400 years old but it isn’t the oldest known wreck to ever be found.

That title belongs to the the Dokos shipwreck, which dates back to the second Proto-Helladic period, 2700–2200 BC.

That puts it at around 4,224 years old, making it the oldest underwater shipwreck discovery known to archaeologists.

Located off the coast of southern Greece near the island of Dokos in the Aegean Sea, the wreck sits about 50-100ft beneath the surface.

The discovery was made by American archeologist Peter Throckmorton on August 23, 1975.

However, with everything on board that was biodegradable being dissolved by the sea, the ship itself is long gone.

The only surviving evidence of the shipwreck is a cargo site of hundreds of clay vases and other ceramic items that were carried aboard the ship.

According to the Hellenic Institute of Marine Archaeology (HIMA), the pottery consisted of hundreds of ceramic pieces including cups, kitchenware, and urns.

Over 500 clay vases were uncovered, dating to the Early Helladic period, and there were a variety of sauceboats in multiple shapes and sizes.

These artefacts and items were raised from the sea floor and transported to the Spetses Museum, where they have been placed into conservation.

It's believed the ship could hold up to 25 crew members

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It’s believed the ship could hold up to 25 crew membersCredit: BLACK SEA MAP/EEF EXPEDITIONS
The Greek merchant ship is of a kind only previously seen on the side of ancient Greek pottery, such as the 'Siren Vase' in the British Museum

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The Greek merchant ship is of a kind only previously seen on the side of ancient Greek pottery, such as the ‘Siren Vase’ in the British MuseumCredit: Getty
The boat almost perfectly resembled the one from the vase

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The boat almost perfectly resembled the one from the vaseCredit: YouTube
An expert holding a plaque of the shipwreck

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An expert holding a plaque of the shipwreckCredit: YouTube

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