A ship found far off Israel's coast could shed light on the navigation skills of ancient mariners

By Jurassic JennJun 22, 2024 10:05 AMScience
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A ship found far off Israel's coast could shed light on the navigation skills of ancient mariners
A ship found far off Israel's coast could shed light on the navigation skills of ancient mariners. Source: www.unian.ua

Ancient seafaring skills are being reevaluated after the recent discovery of a 3,300-year-old ship off the coast of Israel. The vessel, found by a natural gas drilling company, is one of the oldest examples of a ship sailing far from land. This finding suggests that ancient mariners had more advanced navigation abilities than previously believed, as they were able to voyage without relying on a line of sight to land.

What sets this discovery apart is the great distance from shore at which the ship was found. Usually, researchers assumed that trade during that era involved ships sailing closely to the shore between ports. However, this ship's location challenges that theory. Unaffected by waves, currents, or disturbances caused by fishermen over the millennia, the well-preserved ship offers ample potential for further exploration.

Jacob Sharvit, head of the marine unit at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), remarked, "The discovery of this boat now changes our entire understanding of ancient mariner abilities." Prior to this finding, it was believed that ancient sailors relied heavily on keeping an eye on land during their voyages. However, it is now suggested that these mariners likely utilized celestial cues such as the sun and stars for navigation.

The sunken wooden vessel, situated approximately 90 kilometers (55 miles) off Israel's Mediterranean coast, was identified at a depth of 1,800 meters (1.1 miles) by the natural gas company Energean, which operates deep-sea gas fields in the region. Working with a submersible robot, Energean came across the ship buried beneath the muddy ocean floor, still intact.

The ship's cargo, including numerous jugs believed to have been used for carrying oil, wine, or fruit, remains undisturbed. The IAA, in collaboration with Energean, was able to retrieve two of these jugs for further investigation. The pottery has been identified as Canaanite, providing insights into the people living in the surrounding lands during that time.

While the ship's sinking remains a mystery, whether it succumbed to a storm or was attacked by pirates, its discovery opens up new avenues for understanding ancient maritime trade and challenges preconceived notions of the navigation skills of ancient seafarers. This finding emphasizes the importance of relying on archaeological discoveries to broaden our knowledge of history and rewrite existing narratives.

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