Lost ancient treasures may be hidden in world’s oldest shipwreck

The lack of oxygen in the Black Sea had helped to preserve the wreck an archaelogist explained

The lack of oxygen in the Black Sea had helped to preserve the wreck an archaelogist explained

The world's oldest intact shipwreck, complete with mast, rudders and rowing benches, has been found at the bottom of the Black Sea where it has been lying for more than 2,400 years.

They found a Greek trading vessel whose design had previously been seen only on ancient pottery. Experts have spent three years surveying over 772 square miles of the Black Sea in a search for shipwrecks.

"A ship, surviving intact, from the Classical world, lying in over two kilometres of water, is something I would never have believed possible", said Professor Jon Adams from the University of Southampton in southern England, the project's main investigator.

More than a mile beneath the surface of the Black Sea, shrouded in darkness, an ancient Greek ship sat for millennia unseen by human eyes - until the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project happened upon its watery grave a year ago.

A small piece of the forgotten vessel was taken for tests and carbon dated to 400BC, making it the "oldest intact shipwreck known to mankind", according to the group.

The years-long Black Sea project is funded by the Julia and Hans Rausing Trust, and has cost in the region of £15 million ($19.4 million) so far. It sits just over 1 mile (2 kilometers) under the surface in an oxygen-free environment that's left it in a remarkable state of preservation.

The ambitious project, which includes maritime archaeologists, scientists and surveyors, aims to unlock the mysteries of the Black Sea. The vase depicts Homer's epic hero Odysseus, tied to the ship's mast in order to resist the sirens' songs.

Southampton University joined efforts with the Julia and Hans Rausing Trust, Bulgaria's Centre for Underwater Archaeology in Sozopol, Sweden's Södertörn University in Stockholm, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and America's University of CT. The ship was a trading vessel so could contain grain, gold, wine, oil or priceless metalwork.

A documentary on the project will open Tuesday at the British Museum.

The Greek vessel is one of more than 60 shipwrecks identified by the project, including Roman ships and a 17th-century Cossack raiding fleet. Scientists believe the archaeological findings are a chance to learn ground-breaking information about shipbuilding in the ancient maritime world.

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