24 July 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

A 3300-Year-Old Canaanite Shipwreck Ever Discovered with All Its Cargo off Israel’s Coast

An Energean natural gas surveying vessel operating about 90 kilometers (56 miles) off the coast of Israel discovered a ship filled with hundreds of intact containers dating from about 3300-3400 years old (14th-13th centuries BC) at an astonishing depth of 1.8 kilometers.

The 3,300-year-old vessel and its cargo of hundreds of intact amphorae (storage vessels) were found on the Mediterranean seafloor, as reported in today’s joint press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Energean.

The amphorae are of a Late Bronze Age type, dating to the 14th century B.C.E. They are best associated with port cities along the coast of the Levant during a time when international maritime commerce—particularly with this region (and even faraway Britain)—flourished. Two representative vessels have been recovered by the Energean team from the 12- to 14-meter-long wreck.

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.

What makes this wreck especially exciting is its location—“both the first and the oldest ship found in the Eastern Mediterranean deep sea, 90 kilometers from the nearest shore,” Sharvit says. He further explained:

Dr. Bahartan and Jacob Sharvit with the ancient jars. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

“This is a truly sensational find. Only two other shipwrecks with cargo are known from the Late Bronze Age in the Mediterranean Sea—the boat from Cape Gelidonya and the Uluburun boat; both found off the Turkish coast. Yet both of those shipwrecks were found relatively near the shore and were accessible using normal diving equipment. Based on these two finds, the academic assumption until now was that trade in that time was executed by safely flitting from port to port, hugging the coastline within eye contact. The discovery of this boat now changes our entire understanding of ancient mariner abilities: It is the very first to be found at such a great distance with no line of sight to any landmass. There is tremendous potential here for research: The ship is preserved at such a great depth that time has frozen since the moment of disaster—its body and contexts have not been disturbed by human hand (divers, fishermen, etc); nor affected by waves and currents which do impact shipwrecks in shallower waters. …”

This find reveals to us as never before the ancient mariners’ navigational skills …. To navigate they probably used the celestial bodies, by taking sightings and angles of the sun and star positions.

 Up until now, trade was thought to be carried out along the visible coastline. But this ship, discovered ninety kilometers from the closest coast, shows that prehistoric seafarers could travel great distances without being able to see land.

The Canaanite jars exposed to daylight after more than 3,300 years. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority
The Canaanite jars exposed to daylight after more than 3,300 years. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

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.

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.

Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA)

Cover Photo: The world’s oldest known deep-sea ship cargo. Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA)

Related Articles

Construction Workers Discovered Ancient Sarcophagus in Turkey

2 March 2021

2 March 2021

On Monday, reports said that during excavations in the Seyitgazi region of Eskisehir Province in northwestern Turkey, municipal staff unexpectedly...

Headless skeletons discovered in Prehistoric mass grave

14 January 2023

14 January 2023

Archaeologists have found a mass grave site containing 38 decapitated burials at a Neolithic settlement in Vráble, Slovakia. The remains...

Archaeologists discover the Americas’ oldest adobe architecture

7 December 2021

7 December 2021

On the north coast of Peru, researchers have discovered the oldest adobe architecture in the Americas, constructed with ancient mud...

Historic Leeds cemetery discovery unearths an ancient lead coffin belonging to a late Roman aristocratic woman

14 March 2023

14 March 2023

Archaeologists in northern Britain uncovered the skeletal remains of a late-Roman aristocratic woman inside a lead coffin, as well as...

New fortifications unearthed in Porsuk Mound excavations

11 August 2021

11 August 2021

In the excavations of Porsuk Mound, which is an important Hittite settlement and where traces of settlement remains can be...

World-first recreation of ancient Egyptian garden open

20 May 2022

20 May 2022

Have you ever wondered what an ancient Egyptian garden was like?  This is your opportunity to find out! The first...

Poland’s oldest copper axe discovered in the Lublin region

30 March 2024

30 March 2024

A copper axe from the 4th to 3rd millennium BC identified with the Trypillia culture was found in the Horodło...

Two unique mid-14th-century shipwrecks discovered in Sweden

22 April 2023

22 April 2023

During an archaeological dig in western Sweden this summer, the remains of two medieval merchant vessels known as cogs were...

Severed right hands reveal Trophy-Taking practices in Ancient Egypt

2 April 2023

2 April 2023

Twelve severed hands were found in Egypt as part of a horrifying “trophy-taking” practice that was just made revealed by...

Roman-era Pottery Workshop discovered in Alexandria

29 April 2022

29 April 2022

The Egyptian archaeological mission discovered a Roman-era pottery workshop at the site of Tibet Mutawah, west of Alexandria. The researchers...

Southwest Germany’s Oldest Gold Artifact Found

28 May 2021

28 May 2021

Archaeologists discovered the 3,800-year-old burial of a woman who died when she was around 20 years old in what is...

The new study presents evidence suggesting the use of threshing sledges in Neolithic Greece as early as 6500 BCE, about 3000 Years Earlier than Previously Thought

17 May 2024

17 May 2024

The threshing sledges, which until a few decades ago was used in many Mediterranean countries from Turkey to Spain to...

Turkey Adds New Sites to UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List

30 April 2021

30 April 2021

Two additional cultural objects have been added to Turkey’s World Heritage Tentative List, bringing the total number of cultural assets...

A Roman copper-alloy tiny tortoise figurine found in Suffolk

3 December 2023

3 December 2023

In July last year, a small Roman copper alloy tortoise or turtle figurine was discovered by metal detectors near the...

Structures in Turkey’s Panaztepe pointing out a 5,000-year-old settlement found

8 November 2021

8 November 2021

In the 5000-year-old Panaztepe settlement located in the Menemen district of Izmir, structures thought to belong to the oldest period...