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Ancient Greek Ship Discovered in Black Sea

Marine archeologists working in the Black Sea have discovered the remains of a Greek ship off the coast of Ukraine, believed to date back over two and a half thousand years.

Working as part of a joint expedition between the Institute of Archaeology of NAS of Ukraine and the Warsaw Institute of Archaeology, the group (which included students from Kiev and Warsaw) uncovered the ship in the Mykolaiv region of the Black Sea, one of the oldest finds of this nature in the area. It is believed the ship may be a merchant vessel which sailed the ancient trade routes to Olbia or Chersonesos.

Model of the Kyrenia ship (4th-century BC), Thessaloniki Science Center and Technology Museum

Olbia is an Ancient Greek city on the shore of the Southern Bug estuary that was founded in the 7th century BC. The harbour at Olbia is noted as being on of the central trading hubs of Greece on the Black Sea, involved in the trade of cereals, fish and slaves. The settlement was eventually incorporated into the Lower Moesia province during the Roman period and abandoned in the 4th century during the Gothic wars.

Ancient Greek Colonies of the Black Sea. Image: Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias.

Vyacheslav Gerasimov, the head of the Black Sea International Underwater Archaeological Expedition, says that the 5th century BC ship might be raised depending on certain conditions after further investigation:

“This ship is one of the oldest known in the Northern black sea. The ship belonged to the ancient Greek mariners, fifth century BC, the period of colonization of the Northern black sea… Lift without certain conditions for the preservation and storage is impossible; the wood that lays more than 2 thousand years under water may fall to pieces.” – Vyacheslav Gerasimov

A Sixth Century BC Greek merchant vessel. The ship has no rowers and is dependent on its sail. With a high-built hull it is suited for holding cargo. A steersman is at the stern with his two steering-oars and beside him is the ladder for embarking and disembarking. Image: Gutenberg.

Greece has been a traditional maritime nation since antiquity, trading with the Minoan and Mycenean civilisations during the Bronze Age. Ancient Greece dominated trade in the region, expanding their reach through the Mediterranean and as far as Egypt, Phoenicia, Asia Minor and the Black Sea.

In order to carry as much cargo as possible, most Greek merchant ships were deeper than a galley and by 300 BC would have been carrying as much as 300 tonnes. Because of the need to conserve space, merchant ships would usually have been sailing vessels without a crew of oarsmen, the ships reaching a modest speed of just five knots. Due to the ships being unable to sail during bad weather and lack of speed, a shorter journey would often be made by a galley which, although shallower, was powered  by both sails and oars. Ships of the 4th and 5th century BC would have weighed around 150 tonnes, expanding to 400 tonnes during the later Hellenistic period.

Unfortunately there are no photos of the wreck available at this time.

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Michael East View All

Michael East is a writer with a wide variety of eclectic tastes including politics, history, archaeology, professional wrestling and British science-fiction. A former Students' Union President and newspaper editor, he has studied at a variety of institutions and graduated in both history and politics.

He is interested in truth, justice and the unAmerican way. Named as TIME Person of the Year in 2006 and 2011, he is known variously as a rake, a libertine and as the King in the North... if to nobody else but himself.

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