By Mayukh Saha,
The 2,400-year-old ship is so well preserved that even the mast and rowers’ benches have survived for millennia https://t.co/R0NAOHdamq
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) 23 October 2018
Mankind has told stories right from the first time he learned to light a fire and sat with his kinsmen around it. And the oldest stories that have survived till modern times, and are still enjoyed by men, are those of the quests.
Quests necessarily require travel and in the ancient world, nothing could be as heroic as a voyage by ship. And lo and behold we have the framework of the world’s oldest myth, that of Jason and the Argonauts, who crossed the sea to reach the land of Colchis, where the sun rose out of.
So why would I bring this up in an article about a shipwreck in the Black Sea?
Well, the answer is simple. The ancient Greeks were expert shipbuilders and they navigated the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea with prowess.
The area we now know as Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Sicily and Georgia was total a Greek seafaring territory. And it is here that this discovery has taken place.
It is the world oldest shipwreck, a 23 metre long wooden vessel made in the same technique which were passed down by the makers of ships like the Argo. Interesting fact: those same techniques would be passed down to the Romans who would reach new corners of the world, including as far as India’s south-western coast where people still build fishing vessels using the same method.
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The method is in summary, simple: the skin or hull of the ship is made first, and then the skeleton of the beams of harder wood.
Getting back to the discovery, the discovery was made two kilometres under the sea surface. The depth combined with the pressure and lack of oxygen, added to the decay of the wood that the ship was made of.
Joe Adams, principal investigator of the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project is quoted to have said: “This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world.”
The ship was a vessel that set sail and sank 2400 years ago, possibly during the time of Alexander the Great’s father. Phillip II of Macedon was born along with Antigonus I Monophthalmus, a general who would go on to help Alexander conquer the world.
The ship was a trading vessel, the kind people all over have seen on numerous Greek vases, including the eponymous siren vase, which depicts Odysseus and his crew grappling with wax in their ears, trying to prevent themselves from drowning, seduced by the sirens’ treacherous song. The hero himself had to tie himself to the mast of the ship to save himself from his own mind.
The team is part of an investigation of rising sea levels and the ship is one of 60 shipwrecks discovered in the Black Sea. It is by far the best preserved and most intact.
Among the other wrecks discovered, are quite interesting ensembles. They include a Cossack raiding fleet as well a later Roman ship carrying amphorae of wine.
The discovery sure shows one truth: humans are mere players on a much larger stage of time, walking onto and off the same old platform.