2,400-Year-Old Ancient Greek Ship from Bulgaria’s Black Sea Zone Declared ‘World’s Oldest Intact’ Shipwreck

The Ancient Greek ship was surveyed and digitally mapped by two remote underwater vehicles. Photo: Black Sea MAP/EEF

A 2,400-year-old Ancient Greek merchant ship discovered in Bulgaria’s Black Sea zone by the international Black Sea M.A.P. research expedition has been dubbed the “world’s oldest known intact" shipwreck.

The Black Sea MAP research project has made international headlines a number of times over the past three years, including with the discoveries in Bulgaria’s Black Sea zone of a late medieval pre-Columbian round ship, or a cog, possibly Venetian, for the first time, and of a 2,000-year-old Ancient Roman ship.

The Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (Black Sea M.A.P.), which started in September 2015, has been carried out by the Center for Maritime Archaeology of the University of Southampton, the Sozopol-based Center for Underwater Archaeology at the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture, and the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia.

It has been funded by the Expedition and Education Foundation (EEF), and has also been assisted by the University of Connecticut, USA; the Maritime Archaeological Research Institute, Södertörn (MARIS), Södertörn University, Sweden; and the Hellenic Center for Marine Research, Greece.

A two-hour documentary about the discoveries of the Black Sea MAP underwater archaeology expeditions was due to be shown for the first time at the British Museum on Tuesday, October 23, 2018.

Of the total of 67 shipwrecks found on the bottom of the Black Sea in Bulgaria’s section, the 2,400-year-old Ancient Greek vessel found 80 kilometers off the coast of Burgas has proven to be one of the most intriguing.

Most of those are very well preserved due to the unique environment of the Black Sea where the water is anoxic, or free of oxygen, under depths of more than 200 meters, thus preventing decay.

The 23-meter-long (75-foot-long) shipwreck from ca. 400 BC found by the Anglo-Bulgarian team is being hailed as officially the world’s oldest known intact shipwreck, BBC News reports.

The researchers have been amazed to find the Ancient Greek merchant vessel lying on its side closely resembles in design a ship that decorated Ancient Greek wine vases such as the Siren Vase.

“It’s like another world,” Helen Farr from the expedition is quoted as saying, noting that the rudder, rowing benches and even the contents of its hold remain intact.

“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,” she adds.

“It’s preserved, it’s safe. It’s not deteriorating and it’s unlikely to attract [treasure] hunters," the researcher points out regarding the shipwreck lying more than 2,000 meters below the sea level.

The Black Sea MAP team used two underwater robotic explorers to map out a 3-D image of the ship and they took a sample to carbon-date its age.

It is pointed out that the 2,400-year-old Ancient Greek vessel found near Bulgaria’s Burgas is similar in style to that depicted by the so-called Siren Painter on the Siren Vase in the British Museum, which dates from ca. 480 BC.

The famous Siren 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.

The ship’s cargo remains unknown and the team say they need more funding if they are to return to the site. The vessel was one of many tracking between the Mediterranean and Greek colonies on the Black Sea coast.

The Ancient Greek ship lies at a depth of over 2,000 meters some 80 kilometers off the coast of Bulgaria’s Burgas. Photo: Black Sea MAP/EEF/BBC News

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

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

Over the course of three years the academic expedition found 67 wrecks including Roman trading ships and a 17th Century Cossack trading fleet.

“There are ships down there that have never been seen – apart from murals and paintings, and in books. And these are the first times they have been seen since they were afloat," Edward Parker, Expedition CEO, has told The Guardian.

“Now we have a complete vessel, with the mast still standing, with the quarter rudders in place… It is an incredible find, the first of its kind, ever," adds US-based Bulgarian maritime archaeologist Krum Bachvarov.

A 2,000-year-old sunken Ancient Roman ship was recently discovered on the bottom of the Black Sea in Bulgaria’s territorial waters by the international Black Sea M.A.P. expedition, alongside several dozen other ancient, medieval, and Modern Era shipwrecks.

Another intriguing underwater archaeology story recently connected with the Black Sea (NOT related to the Black Sea MAP project) has been the hypothesis that a large sunken island existed in its southwestern part, near today’s coast of Bulgaria and Turkey.

Also check out these underwater archaeology stories about the findings of the Black Sea M.A.P. expedition in Bulgaria’s territorial waters in the Black Sea:

Archaeologists Discover Perfectly Preserved 2000-Year-Old Roman Ship, 20 Other Shipwrecks in Black Sea Off Bulgaria’s Coast

Pre-Columbian Mediterranean ‘Round’ Ship Discovered for the First Time by Underwater Archaeology Expedition in Bulgaria’s Black Sea Zone

No ‘Biblical Deluge’ but Gradual Ice Age Melting Made Black Sea ‘a Sea’, Archaeologists Find after Underwater Expedition in Bulgaria’s Waters

Also check out these stories about sunken or submerged cities along Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast and beyond:

Archaeologists to Resume Excavations of Half-Sunken Ancient Black Sea City Byzone near Bulgaria’s Kaliakra Cape after 10-Year Break

Maritime Archaeologists Find Bronze Age Settlement under Black Sea’s Seabed off Bulgaria’s Coast

Early Byzantium’s Haemimontus Province on Bulgaria’s Southern Black Sea Coast Presented in New Book Based on 8 Years of Excavations

Submerged Ancient Thracian Capital Seuthopolis in Bulgaria’s Koprinka Water Reservoir Could Be ‘Resurfaced’ with US Government Money

‘Resurfacing’ of Submerged Ancient Thracian Odrysian Capital Seuthopolis Could Make It Global Tourist Attraction, Archaeologist Says

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