World’s oldest intact shipwreck discovered in Black Sea

Archaeologists believe that the ancient Greek trading vessel located at the bottom of the Black Sea is the oldest intact shipwreck to have ever been discovered.

The well-preserved shipwreck is believed to date back to 400BC and was found lying on the seabed more than 2,000m below the surface by a research team comprising of English and Bulgarian nationals. The team then linked the design of the ship to those depicted on ancient Greek vases, such as the Siren Vase on display in the British Museum.

Measuring 23m in total, the vessel still has its rudder, mast, and rowing benches present and intact. It is also believed that the cargo of the ship is still within the hold, though further funding would be required to return and potentially retrieve it.

It has been preserved for over 2,400 years on the seabed due to the total lack of oxygen in the water at that depth; there are simply no organisms capable of living deeper than 150 metres that could degrade the wood.

"...the oldest shipwreck known to mankind"

This find is important to archaeologists and researchers alike, as the shipwreck is the only known example of an ancient Greek merchant trading vessel outside of depictions on Greek pottery. According to principal investigator, Professor Jon Adams, of the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (the team who made the find): “This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world.”

The shipwreck will remain where it is, however, a small section was sent to the University of Southampton for carbon dating and has since been confirmed: “as the oldest shipwreck known to mankind.”

This monumental find was just one of 67 other wrecks found during the three-year expedition by maritime archaeologists and marine surveyors, who were tasked with exploring the Black Sea to gain greater knowledge regarding the impact of sea-level changes during the prehistoric period.