World's oldest deep sea shipwreck discovered off Israel's coast

The oldest shipwreck to be found in deep water was discovered in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel, marine archaeologists announced this week.

The 3,300-year-old shipwreck contained hundreds of well-preserved jugs that transported wine, food oils, fruit and other products across the Mediterranean.

Historians say the discovery is important because the ship was found more than a mile under the surface of the ocean, and was far enough from land that its location provides clues to how ancient sailors navigated using the stars, rather than relying on a view of the shoreline.

Archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority described the shipwreck as a "rare global discovery," and that the ship's contents were preserved "almost perfectly" and "from the moment of disaster and sinking," the organization said.

"This is the oldest ship in the world discovered in the deep sea," the group said Thursday, according to a Facebook-translated announcement. The group said the ship dates back to the Bronze Age, which art historians define as the period in the Near East between 3600 and 1200 BC, according to Harvard University's art museums.

Archaeologists discovered shipwreck cargo in the Mediterranean Sea they believe dates back 3,300 years.
Archaeologists discovered shipwreck cargo in the Mediterranean Sea they believe dates back 3,300 years.

What do we know about the Mediterranean shipwreck?

The ship, from around 1400-1300 BC, was found about 56 miles from Israel's northern coast − a sizeable distance to travel from the shore for ships from that era, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The discovery provides more evidence that seafarers at the time navigated by calculating the angles of the sun and stars, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

"The discovery teaches about the impressive navigation abilities of the ancestors," which allowed them "to cross without any eye contact to the shore," the group's announcement said.

There is some evidence the ship may have sunk as the result of a storm, because the ship shows signs or erosion caused by "distress it got into in a sea storm," the Israel Antiquities Authority said. Or it's possible the ship was attacked by pirates, which was "a phenomenon known from the Late Bronze Age."

The ship measures more than 40 feet and was so well preserved because it wasn't disturbed by waves or human activity, as is common with shipwrecks found in more shallow waters, researchers said.

Inside the ship are hundreds of whole jugs made during the Canaan civilization, which existed in what is now Israel, around 2000-1000 BC.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ancient shipwreck in Israel found to be world's oldest