World’s Oldest Shipwreck Is Rewriting History After Discovery

By TeeJay Small | Updated

Scientists all over the world are conducting mind-bending research in the fields of math, engineering, archeology, and more, leading to new discoveries popping up nearly every day. One new discovery, made by an Israeli gas and oil company, includes the oldest shipwreck known to mankind, dating back to the Bronze Age. Per a report in the Israeli Antiquities Authority, this ancient wreckage completely changes our understanding of Bronze Age seafarers.

Unable To Fully Recover The Vessel


The company, which is not directly named within the report, was drilling for natural gas in the Mediterranean Sea, roughly 56 miles from Israel’s coastline. While probing for spots to drill, nearly 6,000 feet below the waves, they encountered a 3,300 year old wreck, surrounded by cargo including hundreds of handmade clay jars.

Once archeological divers were alerted to the presence of the oldest shipwreck, they determined that the vessel should not be fully recovered, as exposure to the air after thousands of years completely submerged would almost surely damage the structure.

Possible Target For Pirates

Despite this, several of the jars surrounding the oldest shipwreck have been brought to the surface for anthropological study, resulting in a wide array of new discoveries regarding ancient cultures. For starters, this wreckage was located much farther from any landmass than other antiquities of this time period, signaling a change in our understanding of ancient trade routes. Some anthropologists suggested that the ship strayed off course before meeting its demise, arguing that the vessel could have been a target for pirates.

Hints At Advanced Navigation Techniques

Either way, the presence of the oldest shipwreck within this space means that ancient sailors had a much better understanding of geography and navigation than previously understood. This also helps to explain how the ship managed to sit undisturbed within the depths of the sea for so long, as divers wouldn’t have otherwise been searching for Bronze Age vessels in this portion of the water.

Researchers mapping out the wreck explained that the ship’s crew must have been navigating using the Sun and stars in relation to their position. This means Bronze Age explorers were significantly more advanced in navigation than they’ve previously been credited with.

Ancient Artifacts Brought To The Surface

The jars found strewn all across the oldest shipwreck are of Canaanite origin, meaning they likely originated in the Eastern-Mediterranean region of Levant. Other Canaanite items that have been dug up in recent years include a roughly 3,000 year old comb which was also discovered in Israel, containing seven words written in an ancient language. While the Canaanite script has long been dead, researchers believe that the words engraved on the comb translate to instructions for removing head lice.

An Incredible Find

While the Bronze Age shipwreck will remain in the depths of the Mediterranean for the foreseeable future, the knowledge that the oldest shipwreck is present allows researchers the ability to continue searching for more clues in the surrounding areas. With any luck, perhaps divers will soon turn up entire slabs of translatable Canaanite scripts, loaded with additional information about their ancient art and culture. Obviously there’s plenty of untouched water in the region to cover, so we shouldn’t hold our breath for more surprises.

Source: Israel Antiquities Authority