World's oldest intact shipwreck discovered in Black Sea

A perfectly preserved Roman vessel was also pulled from the depths

The researchers examined the ship with remotely operated underwater vehicles, collected a sample and carbon-dated it to around 400 B.C. The University of Southampton says this confirms the vessel as the oldest known intact shipwreck in the world.

An worldwide team of researchers including experts from the University of Southampton found the intact skeleton of the Greek trading vessel which was carbon dated to 400BC and which still has an upright mast and rowing benches.

But there was a time when trade flourished in the Black Sea.

"A ship, surviving intact, from the Classical world, lying in over 2km of water, is something I would never have believed possible", Jon Adams, an archaeology professor at the University of Southampton and the group's principal investigator, said in a statement released Tuesday.

The ship is thought to be a trading vessel and was discovered by a team from the Black Sea Marine Archaeology Project (MAP) that has been searching and surveying the length and breadth of the Black Sea, uncovering 60 wrecks so far.

The team, which is comprised of members from the United Kingdom and Bulgaria, discovered the ship lying on the floor of the sea more than two kilometres below the sea.

The worldwide 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. Scientists have now carbon dated the shipwreck to 400BC. A lack of oxygen at that depth preserved it, the researchers said.

The ambitious project, which includes maritime archaeologists, scientists and surveyors, aims to unlock the mysteries of the Black Sea. Now, according to MAP, they know it also depicts a representation of real trading vessels used around the same era as their find.

A documentary on the project has opened at the British Museum in London on Tuesday.

Dr Dragomir Garbov, a maritime archaeologist working on the project, explained that numerous shipwrecks "literally look as if they had sunk yesterday". "This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world".

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