While mapping the Black Sea, researchers accidentally stumbled upon 41 pristine shipwrecks, some dating back to the Ottoman and Byzantine empires.
The unintentional discovery of ships known only through historical records was made by a group of archaeologists who were scanning the seabed off the coast of Bulgaria to determine around how quickly water rose after the last ice age 20,000 years ago.
“We’re endeavoring to answer some hotly-debated questions about when the water level rose, how rapidly it did so, and what effects it had on human populations living along this stretch of the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea,” Jon Adams, principal investigator on the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (Black Sea MAP), said in a statement.
“As such, the primary focus of this project – and the scope of our funding from the EEF – is to carry out geophysical surveys to detect former land surfaces buried below the current seabed, take core samples and characterize and date them, and create a palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of Black Sea prehistory.”
An Incredibly Rare Find
Shipwrecks from this era likely haven’t been found because if a ship sinks in shallow waters, it decomposes rather quickly. The newly-discovered wrecks were preserved by the lack of oxygen located nearly 500 feet below the surface of the Black Sea.
Using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) optimized to survey the sea floor, the team was able to capture detailed three-dimensional images of the shipwrecks.
“Using the latest 3D recording technique for underwater structures, we’ve been able to capture some astonishing images without disturbing the seabed,” Adams said. “We are now among the very best exponents of this practice methodology and certainly no-one has achieved models of this completeness on shipwrecks at these depths.”
The next phase will for scientists to evaluate as much as possible while leaving the boats untouched. Following that, they will meticulously remove any artifacts held inside the ships.
“Maritime archaeology in the deep sea has often been a contested domain, but this project, the largest of its type ever undertaken, demonstrates how effective partnerships between academia and industry can be, especially when funded by enlightened bodies such as EEF,” Adams said.
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