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The wrecks of the Mediterranean reveal unknown pages in history!

British archaeologists exploring the Mediterranean are on the verge of a landmark discovery. For the dozen or so shipwrecks that have been explored have revealed a story we didn’t realise existed until now. It turns out that centuries ago, trade flourished on a global scale and the Levantine coast was the place where routes from
Published: April 21, 2020 - 10:30
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 19:34
The wrecks of the Mediterranean reveal unknown pages in history!

British archaeologists exploring the Mediterranean are on the verge of a landmark discovery. For the dozen or so shipwrecks that have been explored have revealed a story we didn’t realise existed until now. It turns out that centuries ago, trade flourished on a global scale and the Levantine coast was the place where routes from all corners of the world converged.

It was at the bottom of the Levantine Sea, which forms the eastern Mediterranean, that British archaeologists gathered around the Enigma Shipwrecks Project (ESP) located 12 wooden merchant shipwrecks in 2015. Over the following years, the sites were explored and thoroughly investigated, and now the first results of the research work are being made available to the public.

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For almost seven decades, archaeologists have searched the eastern Mediterranean in vain for wrecks sunk along the mighty shipping routes of antiquity. Today, it turns out that their findings make it possible to describe the wrecks found and the research sites established on them as extremely promising and bringing completely new information about the history of the region and trade contacts in antiquity.

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“This is truly groundbreaking and one of the most amazing discoveries in the Mediterranean,” said Sean Kingsley, director of the Centre for East-West Maritime Exploration and archaeologist at the Enigma Shipwrecks Project

The objects studied lie at depths of up to 2,200 metres, making the use of advanced technology and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) essential during the work. The dozen wrecks surveyed include vessels dating between the 3rd and 19th centuries. They include ships from ancient Greece, Rome, the Arab states and the Ottoman Empire.

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“The largest of these is a 17th century Ottoman merchant ship. It is a true colossus, at least twice the size of other ships. Its cargo consisted of goods combining 14 civilisations! These included the oldest Chinese porcelain ever excavated in the Mediterranean, painted cups from Italy and spices from India.”

The ship, which is believed to have sunk around 1630 while sailing between Egypt and Istanbul, is a time capsule telling the story of the beginnings of a world operating in a global culture.

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“The discovered possessions of 14 cultures and civilisations, spanning China, India, the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, as well as western North Africa, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Belgium, are remarkably cosmopolitan for modern shipping of any era.”

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According to the findings of the ESP researchers, the ship is evidence of a previously unknown Silk Road leading from China to Persia, across the Red Sea to the eastern Mediterranean, and also contributes to establishing the high degree of cosmopolitanism in Islamic societies of the time and how many of the Western world’s values were derived from the civilisational heritage of Asia and Africa.

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“Europe may think it invented the concept of civilization, but the destroyed coffee cups and pots prove that the barbaric Orient was a pioneer and trendsetter rather than a backward destroyer,” Kingsley said

Those involved in the research work carried out by the Enigma Shipwrecks Project are extremely enthusiastic about the findings and what still remains to be discovered. They also make no secret of the fact that their findings may contribute to the need to rewrite some pages in history.

Source: Enigma Shipwrecks Project

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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