Oldest deep-sea ship ever found discovered off coast of Israel

3,400-year-old ship carrying hundreds of relics discovered on the ocean floor off the coast of Israel.

By World Israel News Staff

The oldest deep-sea ship ever discovered was recovered from the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel recently, and is set to go on public display in Israel.

The ship, dating back to the Bronze Age, is estimated to be between 3,300 and 3,400 years old, and was found to be carrying hundreds of intact vessels.

The discovery was made at the incredible depth of 1.8 kilometers (1.125 miles) beneath the surface of the water, on the Mediterranean Sea floor.

The cargo was found during a standard survey executed by Energean – a  natural gas company which operates the Karish, Karish North, Katlan and Tanin offshore gas fields off the coast of Israel.

The contents were positively identified by the Israel Antiquities Authority as Late Bronze Age Canaanite storage vessels.

“The ship seems to have sunk in crisis, either due to a storm or to an attempted piracy attack – a well-known occurrence in the Late Bronze Age,” said Jacob Sharvit, Head of the Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Unit.

“This is both the first and the oldest ship found in the Eastern Mediterranean deep sea, ninety kilometers from the nearest shore. This is a world-class history-changing discovery: This find reveals to us as never before the ancient mariners’ navigational skills – capable of traversing the Mediterranean Sea without a line of sight to any coast.”

“From this geographical point, only the horizon is visible all around. To navigate they probably used the celestial bodies, by taking sightings and angles of the sun and star positions.”

Energean discovered the wreck while using a robotic submarine to examine the sea floor near a possible drill site.

“As part of our ongoing activity to discover and extract natural gas from the deep sea, we conduct surveys that check different parameters, using an advanced submersible robot to scour the seafloor,” says Dr. Karnit Bahartan, from the environmental department of Energean.

“About a year ago, during a survey, we saw the unusual sight of what seemed to be a large pile of jugs heaped on the seafloor. We are in ongoing contact with the Israel Antiquities Authority, and when we sent them the images it turned out to be a sensational discovery, far beyond what we could imagine.”

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In light of this discovery’s tremendous importance Energean rose to the occasion and dedicated a team to work together with Israel Antiquities Authority experts to closely investigate the boat, using their “Energean Star” ship equipped to conduct deep-sea work.

The company’s technicians planned a unique, complex operation and even built a special tool to enable extracting artifacts with minimal risk of damage to the entire assemblage.

“The robot’s survey and mapping of the site clarified this to be a sunken ship ca. 12-14 meters long that was transporting hundreds of vessels, of which only some are visible above the ocean floor. The muddy bottom conceals a second layer of vessels, and it seems that wooden beams of the ship are also buried within the mud,” says Sharvit.

In the course of two days of work at sea, the Energean team extracted two vessels, each from a different extremity of the ship, to minimize disturbances to the intact assemblage of the boat and its cargo.

“The vessel type identified in the cargo was designed as the most efficient means of transporting relatively cheap and mass-produced products such as oil, wine and other agricultural products such as fruit. Finding such a great quantity of amphorae on board one single ship is testimony to significant commercial ties between their country of origin and the ancient Near Eastern lands on the Mediterranean coast”, says Sharvit.

“This is a truly sensational find. Only two other shipwrecks with cargo are known from the Late Bronze Age in the Mediterranean Sea – the boat from Cape Gelidonya and the Uluburun boat; both found off the Turkish coast.”

“Yet both of those shipwrecks were found relatively near the shore, and were accessible using normal diving equipment. Based on these two finds, the academic assumption until now was that trade in that time was executed by safely flitting from port to port, hugging the coastline within eye contact.”

“The discovery of this boat now changes our entire understanding of ancient mariner abilities: It is the very first to be found at such a great distance with no line of sight to any landmass.”

“There is tremendous potential here for research: The ship is preserved at such a great depth that time has frozen since the moment of disaster – its body and contexts have not been disturbed by human hand… nor affected by waves and currents which do impact shipwrecks in shallower waters.”