The Ship Graveyard With 2,500 Years' Worth of Wrecks

Fagjun | Published 2017-09-30 13:57

A large maritime archaeology project has turned up over 60 well-preserved shipwrecks in a Black Sea ship graveyard.


An Ottoman empire ship found 300 meters underwater [Photo by Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz]



The Black Sea MAP initiative is a maritime archaeology project that aimed to study how the environment of the Black Sea region has changed since the ancient times. The Black Sea is an inland sea wherein there is very little light, hence the name. It also has very little oxygen, which means that the sea doesn't contain much life. As scientists from the project were surveying the waters using underwater robots, they accidentally stumbled upon a fleet of shipwrecks that were in amazingly excellent condition.


The wreck of a 2000-year-old Roman ship [Photo by Johan Rönnby/Black Sea MAP]



These ships were in such good condition that many of them still had masts upright and standing, and other features of the ships were also still intact. The oldest of these wrecks was found to be 2,500 years old, which makes its good condition surprising. What, therefore, enabled these wrecks to stay as well-preserved as they are today?



2,500 Years of History in a Single Ship Graveyard


A photogrammetric model of a Byzantine shipwreck with the Surveyor ROV over it [Image by Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz]



As mentioned above, very little life is able to survive in the near-lightless, very low-oxygen conditions of the Black Sea. Below depths of about 150 meters, the Black Sea is anoxic. This means that the organisms that usually cause the material of shipwrecks to decay aren't present. As a result, the ships are in amazing condition.


The well-preserved detail of the stern of an Ottoman [Photo by Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz and Rodrigo Ortiz]



The oldest wreck in the ship graveyard dates back to the 4th or 5th century, and the other wrecks are from the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, all through to the 19th century. Amazingly, some of the ships have never been seen in the flesh, and may be one of a kind. They've only been seen depicted in murals or mosaics, which means this is the first time that anyone alive has actually seen these kinds of ships. “This is history in the making unfolding before us,” says University of Connecticut's Dr Kroum Batchvarov in a statement.


While the discovery of the ship graveyard and its contents is definitely remarkable, the researchers are keeping the location of the site a secret. Just recently, divers found the skeleton of what could be the earliest known human in the Americas. However, the divers posted their find all over social media, leading the skeleton to get stolen. Thus, researchers are keeping things understandably hush-hush.

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