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Dozens of perfectly preserved ancient shipwrecks have been found at the bottom of the Black Sea.

A total of 60 wrecks were discovered dating back as far as 2,500 years, including galleys from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires.

Scientists stumbled upon the graveyard while using underwater robots to survey the effects of climate change along the Bulgarian coast. 

Because the Black Sea contains almost no light or oxygen, little life can survive, meaning the wrecks are in excellent condition.

Researchers say their discovery is ‘truly unrivalled’. Many of the ships have features that are only known from drawings or written description but never seen until now. 

Carvings in the wood of some ships have remained intact for centuries, while well-preserved rope was found aboard one 2,000-year-old Roman vessel.

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Dozens of perfectly preserved ancient shipwrecks have been found at the bottom of the Black Sea. This image shows a 3D model of a Roman ship lying in over 2000m (650 ft) of water. Its mast still stands, both quarter rudders with their tillers are still attached. Rope is still draped over the frames due to the preservation of materials in the Black Sea¿s anoxic conditions

Dozens of perfectly preserved ancient shipwrecks have been found at the bottom of the Black Sea. This image shows a 3D model of a Roman ship lying in over 2000m (650 ft) of water. Its mast still stands, both quarter rudders with their tillers are still attached. Rope is still draped over the frames due to the preservation of materials in the Black Sea’s anoxic conditions

THE ‘DEAD ZONE’

With no light and no oxygen in the Black Sea’s lower, anoxic layer, no life can survive.

This means the environment cannot support the organisms that typically feast on organic materials, such as wood and flesh.

As a result, there is an extraordinary opportunity for preservation, including shipwrecks and the cargoes they carried.

The project, known Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (Black Sea MAP), involves an international team led by the University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology.

Ed Parker, CEO of Black Sea MAP, said: ‘Some of the ships we discovered had only been seen on murals and mosaics until this moment.

‘There’s one medieval trading vessel where the towers on the bow and stern are pretty much still there.

‘It’s as if you are looking at a ship in a movie, with ropes still on the deck and carvings in the wood.

‘When I saw that ship, the excitement really started to mount – what we have found is truly unrivalled.’

Most of the vessels found are around 1,300 years old, but the oldest dates back to the 4th Century BC.

Many of the wrecks’ details and locations are being kept secret by the team to ensure they remain undisturbed.

Black Sea water below 150 metres (490 ft) is anoxic, meaning the environment cannot support the organisms that typically feast on organic materials, such as wood and flesh.

Scientists have accidentally discovered a graveyard of ancient shipwrecks while using underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles to survey the effects of climate change along the Bulgarian coast. Pictured are researchers exploring a recently discovered 2,000-year-old Roman galley buried in the seabed

Scientists have accidentally discovered a graveyard of ancient shipwrecks while using underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles to survey the effects of climate change along the Bulgarian coast. Pictured are researchers exploring a recently discovered 2,000-year-old Roman galley buried in the seabed

Scientists have accidentally discovered a graveyard of ancient shipwrecks while using underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles to survey the effects of climate change along the Bulgarian coast. Pictured are researchers exploring a recently discovered 2,000-year-old Roman galley buried in the seabed

HISTORY OF THE BLACK SEA 

Many of the colonial and commercial activities of ancient Greece and Rome, and of the Byzantine Empire, centred on the Black Sea. 

After 1453, when the Ottoman Turks occupied Constantinople (and changed its name to Istanbul), the Black Sea was virtually closed to foreign commerce. 

Nearly 400 years later, in 1856, the Treaty of Paris re-opened the sea to the commerce of all nations.

As a result, there is an extraordinary opportunity for preservation, including shipwrecks and the cargoes they carried.

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

Many of the ships show structural features, fittings and equipment that are only known from drawings or written description but never seen until now.

Project leader Professor Jon Adams, of the University of Southampton, said: ‘This assemblage must comprise one of the finest underwater museums of ships and seafaring in the world.’

The expedition has been scouring the waters 1,800 metres (5,900ft) below the surface of the Black Sea since 2015 using an off-shore vessel equipped with some of the most advanced underwater equipment in the world.

The vessel is on an expedition mapping submerged ancient landscapes which were inundated with water following the last Ice Age.

The wrecks, such as this one from the Medieval period, are astonishingly well preserved due to the anoxic conditions (absence of oxygen) of the Black Sea below 150 metres (490 ft). This trading vessel was found with the towers on the bow and stern still mostly in place

The wrecks, such as this one from the Medieval period, are astonishingly well preserved due to the anoxic conditions (absence of oxygen) of the Black Sea below 150 metres (490 ft). This trading vessel was found with the towers on the bow and stern still mostly in place

The wrecks, such as this one from the Medieval period, are astonishingly well preserved due to the anoxic conditions (absence of oxygen) of the Black Sea below 150 metres (490 ft). This trading vessel was found with the towers on the bow and stern still mostly in place

Scientists have found a total of 60 wrecks  dating back as far as 2,500 years in the Black Sea. Galleys from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires were found by the team. Pictured is a shipwreck from the Ottoman period

Scientists have found a total of 60 wrecks  dating back as far as 2,500 years in the Black Sea. Galleys from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires were found by the team. Pictured is a shipwreck from the Ottoman period

Scientists have found a total of 60 wrecks dating back as far as 2,500 years in the Black Sea. Galleys from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires were found by…



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