There’s a 2,400-year-old ship at the bottom of the sea, and it’s virtually intact.

  • 3D shipwreck model
3D shipwreck model
Credit: PA Images/ Alamy Stock Photo

Ancient Greek shipwrecks have proved to be unparalleled sources of historical insight. The Antikythera mechanism, the oldest known analog computer, for instance, was discovered in a wreck found in the Mediterranean in 1901. And in 2018, a primitive Greek trading vessel was discovered in the Black Sea that provided previously unknown information to historians — because despite its age, the 2,400-year-old ship was almost entirely intact.

The 75-foot vessel dates back to about 400 BCE and was found lying on its side roughly a mile below the water’s surface. Its mast, rudders, and rowing benches were all in place and in excellent condition. The unique preservation is thanks to the Black Sea’s deep waters being anoxic, meaning they don’t contain oxygen. Beyond a distance of about 500 feet near the shore, the oxygen levels drop to zero — a crucial component in the preservation of organic materials such as wood. More than 60 other shipwrecks have also been discovered in the fruitful area.

Before the ship was found, researchers had only seen its kind in ancient Greek artworks such as the Siren Vase, a piece of pottery depicting the ship of the mythical hero Odysseus. The discovery, according to the archaeology team that found the ship, serves as an important piece of a historical puzzle, providing a real-life look at previously theoretical shipbuilding and maritime practices.

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