Ancient shipwreck far from land in Israel

Dr. Bahartan and Jacob Sharvit with the ancient jars. Photo by Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered the wreck of a 3,300 year old cargo ship found approximately 90 kilometres off the coast. Lying on the seafloor at a depth of roughly 1.8 kilometres (1.1 miles), the 13 metre long wreck was discovered by chance when a gas company was surveying the ocean floor. The ship was laden with earthenware jugs or amphorae.

The discovery is all the more remarkable because the ship was found so far from land. Previously it was assumed that seafarers at that time always stayed in sight of land. The Israeli Archaeology Service IAA believes that this is the first time that such an old ship has been found so far from land, and suggests that sailors might perhaps have navigated by the stars. The shipwreck was located by gas exploration company Energean during a deep sea survey using an advanced submersible robot. Head of the IAA Marine Unit Jacob Sharvit called the discovery “history-changing,” noting that it “reveals to us, as never before, the ancient mariners’ navigational skills.”

Canaanite jars exposed to daylight after 3,300 years. Photo by Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority

According to the IAA the ship’s cargo contains hundreds of large jugs or amphorae as well as hundreds of smaller vessels and other items. The vessels date to the Late Bronze Age (14-13th century BCE), and are believed to be Canaanite storage vessels that were transporting cheap and mass-produced products such as oil, wine and agricultural produce.

Until now, it was always assumed that trade moving by sea did so by moving ships safely from port to port close to the shore – “hugging the coastline within eye contact” as Sharvit describes it. From the position of the wreck, he added, “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.”

A short video of the shipwreck can be viewed here

Dr. Bahartan and Jacob Sharvit with the ancient jars. Photo by Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority


Yulia Karra, Israel21c website  July 1

Text: Alun Harvey

NOS 26 June

Archeologen hebben zo’n 90 kilometer van de kust van Israël een vrachtschip van 3300 jaar oud gevonden. Nooit eerder werd zo’n oud schip zo ver van de kust aangetroffen, stelt de Israëlische oudheidkundige dienst IAA.

Het schip werd bij toeval gevonden toen een gasbedrijf bij een inspectie van de zeebodem kruiken zag liggen. Archeologen stuitten vervolgens op een wrak van 13 meter lang, waarin nog meer aardewerken kruiken lagen.

De vondst is mede bijzonder vanwege de grote afstand tot de kust. Er werd aangenomen dat zeelieden in die tijd altijd land in zicht hielden, maar mogelijk navigeerden ze via de sterren.


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