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
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.