The Black Sea is one of the most mysterious bodies of water on Earth. Scores of civilizations, including ancient ones that have been lost to human memory, have lined this body of water dating back to prehistory. It has even been speculated that the lost city of Atlantis could lie beneath its surface. Just this week, an international team of archaeologists mapping the Black Sea seabed near Bulgaria has announced a rare and unique discovery: using remotely-operated vehicles, or ROVs, the team has discovered over 40 previously unknown ancient shipwrecks in good condition lying on the seabed. The exciting find is the first of its kind, giving historians a glimpse into the lives and cultures of seafaring Ottoman and Byzantine empire sailors.

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Specialized cameras on the ROVs were able to capture gorgeous 3D images of the shipwrecks.

Many of these shipwrecks offer new knowledge about the shipbuilding techniques and technological capabilities of these ancient cultures. Some of the types of ships found have never been seen before, but have only been speculated about based on historical sources such as ancient texts and drawings. The discovery was made by members of the high-tech Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project. This underwater expedition seeks to use cutting-edge cameras and imaging software to capture some of the best underwater images of shipwrecks to date.

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A wreck of an ancient Ottoman Empire ship.

Jon Adams, director of the University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology and lead investigator on this expedition, stated in a university press release that this discovery could help shed light on some of the unsolved mysteries surrounding this area of the Black Sea:

We’re endeavouring to answer some hotly-debated questions about when the water level rose, how rapidly it did so and what effects it had on human populations living along this stretch of the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea.

This find offers new clues towards a greater understanding of the relationship between ancient seafaring cultures in the area. While historians have long known that the Byzantine and Ottoman empires were capable of building ships and maritime navigation, specimens of actual ships are incredibly rare.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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