An extraordinary archaeological find has emerged from the depths of the Mediterranean Sea. A ship approximately 3300-3400 years old (14th-13th centuries BCE), loaded with hundreds of intact containers, was discovered at an astounding depth of 1.8 kilometers.

This discovery, carried out by Energean, a natural gas company during a standard survey of the Karish, Karish North, Katlan, and Tanin marine fields near Israel, has been confirmed by the Israel Antiquities Authority as a Canaanite ship from the Late Bronze Age.

Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, expressed that the ship apparently sank amid a crisis, possibly due to a storm or a pirate attack, both common events in the Late Bronze Age.

Investigators exploring the wreckage on the screen
Investigators exploring the wreckage on the screen. Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority

This discovery is not only the first ship found at such a depth in the Eastern Mediterranean but also the oldest. “This find will change world history: it reveals the navigational skills of ancient sailors, capable of crossing the Mediterranean without any line of sight to the coast,” said Sharvit. Sailors of that era likely used celestial bodies for navigation, relying on the positions of the sun and stars.

Dr. Karnit Bahartan, head of Environment at Energean, explained that the discovery was a surprise during one of their routine studies. Using an advanced submersible robot, the team identified what appeared to be a pile of jars on the seabed. Collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority confirmed it was a significant archaeological find.

Given the importance of this discovery, Energean assigned a team to work alongside experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority, employing their ship “Energean Star,” equipped for offshore work. The operation included the planning and construction of a special tool for object extraction with minimal risk of damage.

View of the wreckage of the ship's cargo
View of the wreckage of the ship’s cargo. Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority

Sharvit detailed that the reconnaissance and mapping of the site, conducted by the robot, revealed that the ship was between 12 and 14 meters in length and carried hundreds of containers, many of which are buried under the seabed mud.

The wooden structure of the ship also seems to be buried in the mud. During two days of work at sea, the team extracted two containers, one from each end of the ship, to minimize disturbances.

The containers found, mainly amphorae, were used to transport mass-produced food items like oil, wine, and fruits. “The finding of such a quantity of amphorae on a single ship is testimony to the significant trade ties between its country of origin and the lands of the Near East on the Mediterranean coast,” explained Sharvit.

Another view of the remains of the wreck's cargo.
Another view of the remains of the wreck’s cargo. Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority

This discovery challenges previous academic assumptions about trade in the Bronze Age. Until now, it was believed that trade was conducted following the coastline in sight. However, this ship, found 90 kilometers from the nearest coast, demonstrates that ancient sailors were capable of navigating great distances without a line of sight to the land.

The ship has been preserved at such a depth that its state and context have not been altered by human hands, nor affected by the currents and waves that usually impact shallower waters.

Eli Escusido, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, highlighted the importance of these findings, announcing that the extracted Canaanite containers will be exhibited at the Archaeological Campus, allowing the public to learn about the history of this ship before the official opening of the visitor center in two years. He thanked Energean for their alertness and dedication in identifying and preserving this valuable shipwreck.

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