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Israel: The oldest sunken ship in the world was discovered

The vessel, estimated to be more than 3,300 years old, was found by Israeli scientists more than a mile deep in the Mediterranean Sea and contained hundreds of intact jugs.

Autoridad de Antieguedades de Israel / AFP

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A ship more than 3,300 years old, containing hundreds of intact jars, was discovered 56 miles off the coast of northern Israel, more than a mile deep in the Mediterranean Sea, making it the oldest vessel in the world discovered so far in deep waters, announced the Antiquities Authority of the Jewish state.

The cargo with the Canaanite jars, which was discovered during routine environmental research by the natural gas producing company Energean, dates back to the Bronze Age.

"It seems that the ship was wrecked as a result of a sea storm or perhaps an encounter with pirates , a phenomenon known since the Bronze Age," explains Yaakov Sharvit, director of the maritime archeology unit of the Antiquities Authority.

Sharvit adds that the discovery “reveals the navigation skills of ancient sailors, who probably depended on celestial objects to cross the Mediterranean” when they could not see any coast.

Dr. Karnit Bachartan, Head of Energean's environmental team, stated that the discovery occurred while the company was conducting studies to examine various environmental parameters with an underwater robot. “We are in regular contact with the Antiquities Authority. When we sent them the photos it turned out to be a sensational discovery, more than any of us could have imagined,” says Bachartan.

Bachartan adds that Energean dedicated a team to working with experts from the Antiquities Authority to closely investigate the site where the ship, between 40 and 45 feet long, was located using a company vessel called Energean Star, which is equipped to carry out work in deep waters.

Employees from Energean and the Antiquities Authority worked together to recover two of the jugs, which were likely used to transport oil, wine or fruit , and were able to bring them to the surface for investigation.

Sharvit states that "the newly discovered ship changes the way of understanding navigation in the ancient world, since it is the first found so far at such a great distance that it does not allow any visual contact with the shore."

The Israeli researcher added that there is enormous potential for the investigation since the depth at which the ship was discovered "is so great that ... time stopped at the moment of the disaster," which is why he stressed that the cargo “was not disturbed by human contact or wave and current activity as occurs in shallow waters.”