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News 20 Sep 17

Scientists Reveal Black Sea’s Underwater Treasures

А team of maritime scientists has conducted a three-year expedition to investigate nearly 2,500 years of seafaring in the Black Sea, uncovering shipwrecks from the Classical, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
Professor Jon Adams. Photo: Black Sea Map Project

Members of three international field expeditions that explored the Black Sea between 2015 and 2017 presented the results of their work on Tuesday in the Black Sea port of Burgas.

The Black Sea MAP project, one of the largest maritime archaeological projects ever, revealed 60 well-preserved shipwrecks that illustrate the history of more than two millennia of seafaring.

The earliest vessels discovered date from the Classical period, around the 4th and 5th centuries BC, while other ships date from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods.

Due to the lack of oxygen in the sea’s deep waters, some of the wrecks have survived in almost perfect condition.

Video: Black Sea Map project
 

Adams gave as an example a merchant vessel from the Byzantine period, around the 10th century AD, which was inspected by the team’s divers.

“This assemblage must comprise one of the finest underwater museums of ships and seafaring in the world,” said chief investigator Jon Adams, a professor at the University of Southampton.

“The condition of this wreck below the sediment is staggering, the structural timber looks as good as new,” he said.

The scientists encountered ships lying hundreds or thousands of metres deep with their masts still standing, rudders in place, cargoes of amphorae and ship’s fittings lying on deck.

Photo: Black Sea Map Project

They said some ships show structural features and equipment which are known only from iconography or written descriptions but have never been seen until now.

‘‘We have never seen anything like this before. This is history in the making unfolding before us,” said Dr Kroum Batcherov from the University of Connecticut.

The scientists brought up amphorae and other artefacts which will help them further study ancient seafaring history.

Scientists from Britain, the US, Bulgaria, Norway, Sweden, Greece and Ukraine took part in the landmark project, led by the University of Southampton and funded by the Julia and Hans Rausing Fund, a charity.

It set out to investigate the changes in the ancient environment of the Black Sea including the impact of sea-level change following the last glacial cycle.

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