The Black Sea Maritime Archaeological Project has been turning ancient shipwrecks up left and right.
The Black Sea Maritime Archaeological Project (MAP) wasn’t started to find a treasure trove of ancient ships. Regardless, it has not kept it from hitting the jackpot. Ending its third year, the expedition has found 60 remarkably well-preserved ancient shipwrecks.
The Black Sea MAP, run by the British EEF Expeditions Limited alongside the University of Southampton, initially set out to explore the historic aspects of climate change. MAP would use lasers to map the floor of the Black Sea. This body of water has an area surface of 436 000 square kilometres. It touches on Bulgaria, Russia, Georgia, Turkey and Ukraine and has no involvement from the global ocean system. Hopefully, they would find how its surface had shifted since the last glacier cycle.
The team speaks about their research and the ancient shipwrecks:
While the MAP team continued its survey work, there’s no denying the ancient shipwrecks are now the show’s stars. At certain depth, the Black Sea becomes anoxic, meaning it lacks oxygen. Without any oxygen-dependent wood-eating naval shipworms around to bother the ships, they remain remarkably preserved. To quote the Southampton press release, at thousands of meters below the surface there are “masts still standing, rudders in place, cargoes of amphorae and ship fittings lying on deck, with carvings and tool marks as distinct as the day they were made.”
“We dived on one wreck, a merchant vessel of the Byzantine period dating to the tenth century,” says Chief Investigator Jon Adams, who is also a professor of maritime archaeology at Southhampton, describing one find in particular. “It lies at a depth of 93 meters. This puts it into the diving range, so we took the opportunity to visually inspect certain structural features first-hand.
The condition of this wreck below the sediment is staggering, the structural timber looks as good as new. This suggested far older wrecks must exist and indeed even in the few days since the dive we have discovered three wrecks considerably older, including one from the Hellenistic period and another that may be older still.”
How old is ancient?
The oldest of the ships look to date back to the fourth or fifth century BC. The ships represent a wide variety of cultures. The finds include periods of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman rule. While empires rose and fall, trade remained constant on the Black Sea for centuries. Throughout history, including up to today, there have never been an shortcuts for trade over water.
In addition to the ships, researchers found an entire Bronze Age settlement in Bulgaria alongside an ancient shoreline. But then, in a telling combination of the MAP’s twin investigations into history and climate change, the shoreline rose. The village eventually became a bay for Greek colonists. Thereafter the area became a harbor for Byzantine sailors and finally an anchorage used by the Ottomans.
“Our primary aims are focused on the later prehistory of the region and in particular on human response to major environmental change,” says Professor Adams. “We believe we now have an unparalleled archive of data with which to address these big questions about the human past.”