I ship you knot: 2,400-year-old Greek trading vessel found intact at bottom of Black Sea

Carbon dating places it as oldest complete wreck

Siren Vase
The Siren Vase shows a ship much like the wreck. Pic: Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

A bunch of maritime archaeologists, scientists and surveyors have discovered at the bottom of the Black Sea what is thought to be the oldest intact shipwreck – at a whopping 2,400 years.

Thanks to the lack of oxygen at its depth over 2km below the surface, the 23-metre (75ft) vessel is remarkably unscathed. The boat's mast still stands, and its rudders and rowing benches remain in position.

The underwater Indiana Joneses believe the find to be an ancient Greek trading vessel due to similarities with the ship depicted on the "Siren Vase" artefact, which dates from the same era and shows Homer's Odysseus lashed to the mast to stop him being seduced by the sirens' songs.

The Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project, which made the discovery, said no other examples of this kind of ship exist. The vase can be seen at the British Museum in London.

Youtube Video

"A ship surviving intact from the classical world, lying in over 2km of water, is something I would never have believed possible," said Professor Jon Adams, principal investigator with the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project. "This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world."

A sample from the site has been carbon dated by the University of Southampton, reportedly confirming it to be "the oldest intact shipwreck known to mankind".

The international team of boffins has been on a three-year mission studying sea-level changes throughout history and their impact on the Black Sea, which is in Eastern Europe and surrounded by Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

During this time, they have found 60 wrecks including a 17th-century Cossack raiding fleet, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman vessels – and now this complete specimen from the Hellenic Golden Age.

Various outlets have been reporting that the British Museum is showing a two-hour documentary about the discovery today, but The Reg rang BM and a patient chap named Owen told us it was a "private screening". We understand the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Expedition conference will be making some of the data available to the Wellcome Collection in Euston, London, and we've asked it for further info.

We've asked if there is an opportunity for a public viewing of the documentary footage, which would be especially interesting as the Hellenic wreck will not be removed from the seabed. As soon as we hear back, we will let you know here. ®




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