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A 3,300-year-old shipwreck challenges the history of maritime navigation – DW – 06/21/2024

A 3,300-year-old shipwreck challenges the history of maritime navigation – DW – 06/21/2024

the Israel A natural gas exploration company off the coast of northern Israel has discovered a 3,300-year-old ship and its cargo, one of the oldest known examples of a ship sailing away from land, the Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Thursday.

The authority said that hundreds of intact ancient amphorae were found on board the ship, and described this as a “pioneering discovery.”

The wreck and its artifacts were discovered at a depth of 1,800 meters (5,906 ft) at the bottom of the ship. The Mediterranean Sea By Energean, a London-listed energy company.

The great depth at which the ship was found means it has not been disturbed by waves, currents or fishermen for thousands of years, offering greater potential for research, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

A 3,300-year-old ship and its cargo were discovered by a gas exploration company off the coast of northern IsraelPhoto: Emil Al-Ajam/IAA/AP Photo/picture Alliance

Why is this discovery important?

The Israel Antiquities Authority said that a Late Bronze Age ship found so far at sea indicates that the navigational skills of ancient sailors were more advanced than previously thought, as they could navigate without having to see land.

The wreck was found last year 90 kilometers (56 miles) off the coast of northern Israel. The Israeli Navigation Authority said that the boat and its cargo were completely intact, adding that it appeared to have sunk either in a storm or after being attacked by pirates.

“The discovery of this boat now changes our entire understanding of the abilities of ancient mariners,” said Jacob Charvit, head of the IAA’s marine unit. “It is the first boat to be found at such a great distance with no line of sight to any land mass.”

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According to Charvet, researchers assumed that trade during this period was carried out by boats sailing near the shore, observing the land as it moved from one port to another.

He said the sailors of the newly discovered boat may have used the sun and stars to find their way.

Yaakov Sharvit and Karnit Bahartan (right) examine old jarsPhoto: Emil Al-Ajam/IAA/AP Photo/picture Alliance

How was the shipwreck found?

Energean operates a number of deepwater natural gas fields in Israeli territorial waters. As part of its work, the company uses an underwater robot to clean the seabed.

About a year ago, they found a ship 12 to 14 meters long buried in the muddy bottom, among hundreds of jars.

“When we sent them (the Antiquities Authority) the pictures, it turned out to be an exciting discovery, far beyond what we could have imagined,” said Karnit Bhartan, head of environment at the company.

The vessel has not been recovered at this time, but Energean worked with the Israel Antiquities Authority to recover two of the jars, which were likely used to transport oil, wine or fruit, and bring them to the surface for research.

The Israel Antiquities Authority identified the jars as belonging to the Canaanites, a people who lived in the lands bordering the eastern Mediterranean.

dh/sms (AP, AFP, dpa)