Searching for relics from thousands of years ago is usually done by poking around archeological dig sites, with researchers hoping against hope that manmade trinkets have survived to tell a tale of life long ago. Researchers on an expedition in the Black Sea found themselves staring at one of the most incredible ancient artifacts ever discovered when they stumbled upon the largely intact remains of a Greek merchant ship thought to be over 2,400 years old.
The scientists were able to use underwater robots to examine the vessel, which measures some 75 feet in length. The team used 3D mapping instruments to generate a detailed model of the wreck as it sits silently more than 6,500 feet below the surface.
As the BBC reports, the ship is in incredible condition, especially considering its age. The hull of the boat is still intact, with the deck of the ship still lined with oars and the vessel’s cargo hold still sealed up. The contents of the hold are still unknown, making it a bit more difficult to determine where the ship was going or where exactly it originated.
Ships like this would have been fairly common around 400 BC, with traders moving goods between colonies using the Black Sea as their primary means of transport. The wreck remained undiscovered for so long thanks to the depth at which it sits, which is too far for human divers to venture. Robots, on the other hand, can go much farther, and the expedition team was incredibly lucky to have located the wreck.
The researchers were working as part of the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project, which has made dozens of shipwreck discoveries over the past few years. They’re all important from a historical standpoint, but this one is indeed special. It’s thought to be the oldest intact shipwreck ever discovered, and the researchers believe it will remain this way for some time.
The water at that depth is devoid of oxygen which aids in preserving the wood. The researchers don’t believe that it’ll be plundered by relic hunters due to how hard it would be to retrieve anything from the site.