Historians may have discovered the oldest shipwreck in Mediterranean Sea

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A few days ago, we talked about how scientists have embarked on an expedition to find one of Europe’s oldest inhabited places. Well, this time around, another group of international researchers have stumbled across a 2,700-year old Phoenician ship and its cargo, off the island nation of Malta. This fascinating find might very well account for the oldest shipwreck ever found in the great Mediterranean Sea.

In specific terms, the momentous discovery was actual made around a mile off the coast of Gozo Island – the second largest island in the Maltese archipelago. The wrecked 50 ft (15 m) spanning ship was found around 400 ft below water, while the trade galley’s cargo was spread across an area of around 700 sq ft. Interestingly, most of the cargo items are remarkably well preserved due to the ‘soft’ sandy bed of the sea around this part of the region. To that end, the historians could find out around 50 variant-designed amphorae (which were ceramic containers for generally storing wine) and 20 basalt-made grinding stones – all from around the period of 700 BC.

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The factional origin of this trading ship doesn’t really come as a surprise – the Phoenicians were master seafarers and traders from the ancient world, who started out from their sea-kissing home city-states of Tyre and Sidon along the Levant (present-day Lebanon and Syria), while proceeding to found super-states/trading hubs such as Carthage along the North-African coast. To the then-Western world of Greeks and Romans, they were known as ‘traders in purple’, because the Phoenicians (phoínios meaning purple) almost had monopoly in dealing in the purple dye extracted from Murex snails, that was exclusively used for royal attires. The enterprising people were also known for trading in wine with Egypt, hauling tin all the way from Great Britain, deriving precious silver from Spain and developing mankind’s first known alphabet!

As for the crucial unearthing project itself, the researchers (funded by the French National Research Agency) are not yet done with the site. The experts will now try to create a virtual, hi-res 3D model of the specific area with the aid of inputs from over a 800 photographs taken of the ancient wreckage. They are also hoping to find more artifacts from the sunken ship, all of which would be made accessible to the public under the umbrella of cultural finds initiated by the Maltese government.

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Via: Times of Malta

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