Oldest intact shipwreck found in Black Sea

The long story and vertiginous conclusion of your faithful narrator’s two-day quest to get a picture of yet another random artifact will be soon told in (excessive) detail, but it’ll take me a while to get the pictures leading up to THE picture sorted, so while I’m winging over ocean I guess I’ll let the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project get a little attention. Its researchers have discovered the oldest known intact shipwreck, a merchant vessel of Greek design previously only seen on the side of Greek vases.

It was found a little over a mile below the surface of the dark, cold Black Sea, preserved in mind-boggling detail by the lack of oxygen and wood-devouring organism. The ship is 75 feet long and is resting comfortably on the sea floor complete with mast, rudders and rowing benches.

“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, the principal investigator with the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (MAP), the team that made the find. “This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world.” […]

The team reportedly said they intended to leave the vessel where it was found, but added that a small piece had been carbon dated by the University of Southampton and claimed the results “confirmed [it] as the oldest intact shipwreck known to mankind”. The team said the data would be published at the Black Sea MAP conference at the Wellcome Collection in London later this week.

With so much of it intact, the ship can be identified as the same type depicted on the Siren Vase in the British Museum. The Siren Vase, believed to have been found in the Etruscan necropolis of Vulci but made in Attica, dates to 480-470 B.C., the same period as the ship. It pictures Odysseus tied to the mast to resist the song of the sirens who surround him. Six oars are visible on the port side.

I can’t tell from the photo of the shipwreck how many oars it had, but it looks to me that there are seven or eight rowing benches extant, so very similar in size to the imaginary vessel on the vase. It’s pretty amazing to picture Odysseus’ rowers perched on those benches.