Recent excavations have uncovered a ship estimated to date back 4,000 years, which experts say would make it the oldest sunken ship to have been discovered in the Mediterranean, Turkish daily ‘Hurriyet’ reports.
Underwater excavations led by Ankara University’s Research Centre for Maritime Archaeology (ANKÜSAM) have uncovered sunken ships ranging from the second century B.C. to the Ottoman period in İzmir’s Urla district.
Urla Port dates back to the 7th Century B.C. and is near the site of Klozemenai, an ancient city now underwater because of an earthquake in the 8th century. Professor Hayat Erkanal, head of Limantepe excavations for the underwater ancient city of Klozemenai and director of ANKÜSAM explained that the sunken city of Klozemenai is the site of many ships from different periods in history.
Currently there are two other undersea finds that could claim to be the world’s oldest ship, he added.
The Uluburun shipwreck, found off the coast of Kaş, is around 3,500 years old, while the sunken ship of Hatshepsut, the fifth pharaoh of Ancient Egypt’s 18th dynasty, is dated to be around 150 years older.
“If we confirm that the sunken ship [we have found] is 4,000 years old, it will be a very important milestone for archaeology,” Erkanal said.
The professor that said materials removed from seawater must be cleaned of salt to prevent further decay. This procedure is carried out in a large restoration and conservation laboratory at the recently opened Mustafa Vehbi Koç Maritime Archaeology Research Centre and Archaeopark. The process of removing a sunken ship from the water can take approximately seven to eight years, he said.
Erkanal said that through its discoveries, the team is working to make a sea chart of the region. “We’re also working on a project to turn the region, which has a lot of important [information] for world maritime history, into an experimental archaeology centre,” he said.
The team also plans to remove and display an Ottoman ship from the site next year. Citing only a few other Ottoman-era shipwrecks that have been discovered in Limantepe, Erkanal said there is a “significant deficiency” in archaeological records.
“It is unfortunate that we don’t have even one example to show our sea forces that ruled the Mediterranean in the past,” he concluded.