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Two of the many amphorae recovered from the 3,300-year-old wreck, the earliest discovered ship.

The Earliest Ship Ever Found in the Deep Seas Discovered!

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The Earliest Ship Ever Found in the Deep Seas Discovered!

A stunning discovery has been made on the Mediterranean Sea floor: a ship’s cargo from 3,300-3,400 years ago, laden with hundreds of intact vessels, was found at an extraordinary depth of 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles). The cargo was unearthed during a routine survey conducted by Energean, an E&P natural gas company operating in offshore fields near Israel. The contents have been identified as Late Bronze Age Canaanite storage vessels by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Jacob Sharvit, Head of the Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Unit, explained the significance of the find in an IAA statement:

“The ship seems to have sunk in crisis, either due to a storm or an attempted piracy attack – common occurrences in the Late Bronze Age. This is the first and oldest ship discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean deep sea, ninety kilometers (56 miles) from the nearest shore. This find reveals ancient mariners’ navigational skills, capable of traversing the Mediterranean without a line of sight to any coast. To navigate, they likely used celestial bodies, taking sightings and angles of the sun and stars.”



Amphorae recovered from the wreck. (IAA)

A Sensational Underwater Find

Energean’s Head of Environmental Staff, Dr. Karnit Bahartan, recounted the discovery:

“During a survey about a year ago, we saw an unusual sight – a large pile of jugs 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.”

Energean rose to the occasion, dedicating a team to work with Israel Antiquities Authority experts. Using the “Energean Star” ship, equipped for deep-sea work, the team planned a unique operation, building a special tool to extract 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 around 12-14 meters (39-46 feet) long, transporting hundreds of vessels, with only some visible above the ocean floor. The muddy bottom conceals a second layer of vessels, and it seems the wooden beams of the ship are also buried within the mud,” said Sharvit.


Imaging of the cargo of the wreck on the seabed. (IAA)

Unveiling Ancient Trade Routes

In two days of work at sea, the Energean team extracted two vessels from different extremities of the ship to minimize disturbances to the intact assemblage. The vessel type identified was designed to transport relatively cheap and mass-produced products such as oil, wine, and other agricultural goods.

Sharvit emphasized the historical significance:

“Finding such a quantity of amphorae on one ship testifies to significant commercial ties between their country of origin and the ancient Near Eastern lands on the Mediterranean coast. This is a sensational find, changing our understanding of ancient mariner abilities. The boat is the first found at such a great distance with no line of sight to land, preserved at a depth where it has not been disturbed by human hands or natural forces.”

Images from the wreck. (IAA)

A Collaborative Effort for Preservation

Shaul Zemach, Energean Israel CEO, highlighted the company’s commitment to archaeology and community: “The ongoing relationship with the Israel Antiquities Authority exemplifies our commitment to society and the environment. Our team exhibited extraordinary professionalism, and we are happy to be partners in a discovery of this magnitude.”

Eli Escusido, Israel Antiquities Authority Director, announced plans to exhibit the Canaanite vessels:

“The importance of these finds prompted a decision to exhibit the vessels in the Archaeological Campus for ‘sample taste’ tours this summer. These visits will offer a glimpse of this unique edifice, its mosaics, and laboratories, even before the official opening of our expansive visitor center in two years. We earnestly thank Energean for their alertness in identifying this ancient cargo and dedicating the resources to enable initial understandings from this rare shipwreck.”

The discovery of this ancient shipwreck is a groundbreaking moment in the study of ancient maritime history, revealing previously unknown capabilities of Bronze Age mariners and shedding light on trade routes and commercial ties of the era. The collaboration between Energean and the Israel Antiquities Authority underscores the importance of such partnerships in uncovering and preserving our shared history.

Top image: Two of the many amphorae recovered from the 3,300-year-old wreck, the earliest discovered ship.            Source: IAA

By Gary Manners

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Gary is an editor and content manager for Ancient Origins. He has a BA in Politics and Philosophy from the University of York and a Diploma in Marketing from CIM. He has worked in education, the educational sector, social work... Read More

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