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World's oldest intact shipwreck discovered in Black Sea

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https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/oct/23/oldest-intact-shipwreck-thought-to-be-ancient-greek-discovered-at-bottom-of-black-sea

 

Archaeologists have found what they believe to be the world’s oldest intact shipwreck at the bottom of the Black Sea where it appears to have lain undisturbed for more than 2,400 years.

The 23-metre (75ft) vessel, thought to be ancient Greek, was discovered with its mast, rudders and rowing benches all present and correct just over a mile below the surface. A lack of oxygen at that depth preserved it, the researchers said.

“A ship surviving intact from the classical world, lying in over 2km of water, is something I would never have believed possible,” said Professor Jon Adams, the principal investigator with the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (MAP), the team that made the find. “This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world.”

The ship is believed to have been a trading vessel of a type that researchers say has only previously been seen “on the side of ancient Greek pottery such as the ‘Siren Vase’ in the British Museum”.

Edited by Captain Jean-Luc Picard
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fascinating

didnt knew trading vessels had both sails and oars. was the sails poor back then or lack of regular wind? rowing better when on rivers?

was rowing done by slaves or paid crew? i guess i have to google now lol

Edited by springby

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My understanding:
Classical era ships were predominantly rowed. The courses were only useful with a very specific range of winds, while oars could be used to manoeuvre close inshore, and even on lee shores with little risk, allowing access to sheltered coves. They were relatively low freeboard, and fragile ships, so tended to stay within reach of the shore - being caught in open water during a strong storm could be disastrous. If you reached a sheltered beach you could draw the ship sternfirst onto the shore and wait out the bad weather.

In the early classical period there was little difference between ships of war and trade, but later refinement of both drew them further apart, with additional banks of oars increasing the power and agility of the warships, and increased volume of the hull increased cargo capacity of the merchant vessels.

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1 hour ago, springby said:

fascinating

didnt knew trading vessels had both sails and oars. was the sails poor back then or lack of regular wind? rowing better when on rivers?

was rowing done by slaves or paid crew? i guess i have to google now lol

Oars were indeed used when there was lack of wind but mostly to go against the wind.

The trade was mostly coastal and rivers were rarely used, more accurately the ships that used the rivers were not the same ones that would go at sea.

And yes usually the rowing was done by slaves.

This applies to most ships in the Mediterranean.

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8 minutes ago, Lieste said:

The courses were only useful with a very specific range of winds, while oars could be used to manoeuvre close inshore, and even on lee shores with little risk, allowing access to sheltered coves. They were relatively low freeboard, and fragile ships, so tended to stay within reach of the shore - being caught in open water during a strong storm could be disastrous.

Not really no, yes the oars were useful to find shelter in coves, but ships at the time very much sailed on the open sea, precisely using the oars if the winds were not favorable. You wouldn't sail from say lybia to greece by following the coast, and there were islands that both needed trade and offered shelter on the way. Sure a lot of the trade was following the coast but there was plenty of open sea trade.

Edited by Captain Jean-Luc Picard

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Not at all sure about merchants, but Greek city states, the rowers were not slaves. Freemen, and an important part (perhaps the most important) of the weapon system, which also included the Hoplites on deck and the ship itself.

Without well coordinated, skilled and strong oarsmen the whole ship (and the squadron of which it was a part) could be destroyed by failure to navigate treacherous waters or battle safely.

Later Roman galleys did use slaves in some cases (but I'm not convinced universally) and had a reputation of relatively poor seamen - made up by excelling at boarding, with much larger galleys and equipment specifically aimed at the boarding fight.

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Just now, Captain Jean-Luc Picard said:

Not really no, yes the oars were useful to find shelter in coves, but ships at the time very much sailed on the open sea, precisely using the oars if the winds were not favorable. You wouldn't sail from say lybia to greece by following the coast, and there were islands that both needed trade and offered shelter on the way.

Within reach is a few hours or days hopping between islands when weather is favourable, rather than extended voyages out of the sight of land for weeks or months at a time.

It is also a preference, rather than a rule.

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14 minutes ago, Lieste said:

Not at all sure about merchants, but Greek city states, the rowers were not slaves. Freemen, and an important part (perhaps the most important) of the weapon system, which also included the Hoplites on deck and the ship itself.

Later Roman galleys did use slaves in some cases (but I'm not convinced universally) and had a reputation of relatively poor seamen - made up by excelling at boarding, with much larger galleys and equipment specifically aimed at the boarding fight.

True for most of the antiquity, slaves were used for let's say the "economical" matters not the military ones, in fact oarsman was considered a pretty good job in greece, but later on even the navy started using slaves ( venice, the barbary pirates, the french... )

 

10 minutes ago, Lieste said:

Within reach is a few hours or days hopping between islands when weather is favourable, rather than extended voyages out of the sight of land for weeks or months at a time.

True.

Edited by Captain Jean-Luc Picard

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Classical oared ships, and to be honest the entire galley period (roughly 4000BC-1571AD) used wind as the primary motor for warships, there are a lot of poor modern interpretations of galley era warfare and seamanship. Oars were used for making port or in battle but rowing was incredibly demanding physically, it wasn't common for an oared ship to row for more than an hour at a time at cruising speed, the much more straining full speed rowing couldn't be kept up more than 15-20 minutes by even the most hardy and experienced benchmen. The large crews of galleys were also necessary to hoist the massive square, and later triangular sails.

Its probably also worth pointing out the use of rams is vastly overstated, with missile weapons being the primary weapon of conflict during the period, but also through hand to hand combat taking place frequently in boarding action. The notable rams on the ancient and early medieval era ships were mainly to create a stable fighting platform or sweeping oars, so as disabling the primary fighting engine similarly to de-masting a ship in the age of sail. Punching a large hole in a ship and being caught up in another sinking would put incredible strain on the hull and drag both ships into the water.

When it comes to slaves rowing, it depended heavily on the nations states involved, some used slaves some didn't. Taking the most famous of the Greek cities, Sparta used pressed men and slaves, while Athens used citizens, while other nations of the time such as Persia used conscripted men, acting as a kind of middle ground. Fast forwarding to the medieval world, most Christian navies used paid oarsmen, but often supplemented with the use of convicts and conscripts whilst the Ottomans and Berbers used a mix of conscripts and slaves, Venice is probably the best example of a nation that was reluctant to use impressed men for the same reasons as Athens in the ancient world in that they performed much better as citizens, although by the end of the early modern period the Venetian navy did have a small handful of convict rowed galleys.

Something that most people aren't aware of is that almost all galleys due to their light construction spent large amounts of time out of the water, being pulled onto beaches or onto slips to maintain and careen, dry out and do various maintenance much more than sailing ships, this is why they spent so much time close to shore, not due to being unstable in open waters. Galleys were perfectly able and did sail in the Atlantic, they were a common sight on the Atlantic coastline in the Ancient and Medieval world, being replaced as trade ships in the mid 1400s.

Lastly something else worth pointing out is that oar driven ships were, unlike they are often depicted in film and media rowed standing up rather than sitting down, the benches while a prominent part of galley design were used as resting areas, similarly to hammocks not as a seat to row from. Rowing was an activity that used the entire body, making the most of the powerful core muscle groups and leverage of a standing position as compared to the relatively static and arm heavy seated positions seen in films such as Ben-Hur.

Also If anyone has any questions I am more than happy to answer them :)

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Do you know of the project of experimental naval archaeology 'Gyptis' that built a replica of a Greco-Massalian boat of the 6th cent. BC ?

In English :

Source (in French  with a bibliography of English and French texts) : http://www.archeologiesenchantier.ens.fr/spip.php?article185

 

And the Greek explorer, Pytheas of Massalia ?

Edited by LeBoiteux

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7 hours ago, Fluffy Fishy said:

Lastly something else worth pointing out is that oar driven ships were, unlike they are often depicted in film and media rowed standing up rather than sitting down, the benches while a prominent part of galley design were used as resting areas, similarly to hammocks not as a seat to row from. Rowing was an activity that used the entire body, making the most of the powerful core muscle groups and leverage of a standing position as compared to the relatively static and arm heavy seated positions seen in films such as Ben-Hur.

 

Olympias was built and operated with seated thranite, sygite and thalamite rowers. With demonstrated performance with an inexperienced crew of 9+kts, and an estimated 2.5kts continuous with rowing in turns by partial crew.

While I have little doubt that the later gunpowder era galleys (with multiple oarsmen per sweep) did work them standing, I am unconvinced that the classical trireme was designed for this - it is a fairly 'compact' arrangement of men and oars.

I am open to persuasion, but it seems improbable given the height of the ship and it's draft to fit three banks of standing oarsmen, when the three banks of seated ones leave the lowest oar ports quite close to the waterline, and precious little headroom below the deck. And the Lenormant relief shows obviously seated oarsmen.

If a trireme has seated rowers, then standing rowers in a bireme or pentaconter (the ancestors of it) are also questionable, particularly in the bireme form.
 

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9kn isnt unusual for a swift built galley, the fact olympias is built with sitting benches is a bit strange. Galleys in the gunpowder age had their benches arranged in a similar fashion to the classical era warships so much so medieval era naval architecutre was constantly looking at its ancestors for mathematical inspiration to get the most power out of its oars. Its also worth pointing out that during the high galley period they were also trireme style ships with the core mechanics remaining the same. The benching arrangements of triremes and how they were looked at in the medieval world were actually a major influence in the start of the renaissance, while the birth of modern science and the scientific method of ship design is directly linked to the mathematical principles of rowing quinqueremes, with the first early modern ship using the scientific method being a galleass.

Standing rowing is a universal thing that was common place not only in Europe but Asia too, especially in China, Korea and Japan around the same time. Everyone. Compactness of design wasn't something that changed dramatically over the 5000 years of the galley, sailors just rowed in crampt conditions taking this back to olympias its likely inspired by modern misinterpretation spurred on with almost no architectural physical evidence from archaeology due to finding a preserved ship from before around 900 is almost never heard of.

If you want to see how standing rowing works physically you are probably best off finding a video of a gondoleir or watching a rowing exercise take place in a japanese martial art, both show quite well the use of body mechanics in rowing and how rowing was from a standing position, with the gondola being designed in a way to train Venetian oarsmen during daily life similarly to the more famous Sunday longbow practise training in medieval England.

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On 10/23/2018 at 7:38 PM, Fluffy Fishy said:

Also If anyone has any questions I am more than happy to answer them :)

Thanks for taking the time to write your answer, is there a particular book you would recommend on the subject?

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58 minutes ago, Captain Jean-Luc Picard said:

Thanks for taking the time to write your answer, is there a particular book you would recommend on the subject?

Probably the best value for money and most available is the Age of the Galley, part of Conway's History of the Ship, they are very cheap second hand online, it gives a pretty good basic history of the entire naval era. Bizarrely the paperback copies tend to be more expensive than the hardbacks too so you can get yourself a nicely laid out fairly comprehensive introduction to galleys.

61XMNHgkX1L._SX407_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

I've got some other more specialist books that are a bit harder to come by that go into some detail, but they are mainly centred around Venetian galleys though. Galleons and Galleys, Venetian ships and shipbuilders, Fleets of the World The Galley period and Guido Ercole's Le Galee Mediterranee 5000 anni di storia techniche e documenti, Galeazze Un sogno Veneziano and Galee Veneziane per Capo da Mar are all really good books. There are some other really good books out there but I can't recommend them fully as I've not read/owned a copy of them. The French galley La Reale is pretty well documented, its a shame the era doesn't get as much attention or romanticised as much as the age of sail. Hope this helps :)

 

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2 hours ago, Captain Jean-Luc Picard said:

is there a particular book you would recommend on the subject?

About the Athenian trireme : here.

1 hour ago, Fluffy Fishy said:

The French galley La Reale is pretty well documented, its a shame the era doesn't get as much attention or romanticised as much as the age of sail. 

There is another well-documented French galley, La Fleur de Lys, 1690 : here is a monograph by Delacroix with a long 'summary' of the History of French galleys and their building 🙂. Here's a vid of Delacroix' Fleur :

 

+ quite a few essays, historical studies, novels, movies about them... in French.

For fun and for French : 

 

Edited by LeBoiteux
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41 minutes ago, Fluffy Fishy said:

Probably the best value for money and most available is the Age of the Galley, part of Conway's History of the Ship, they are very cheap second hand online, it gives a pretty good basic history of the entire naval era.

I don't mind the price too much as i just set price alerts and can wait years till i get that book that costs hundreds for 3 pounds delivery included 😎 .

That one seems to be a collection of essays which are always interesting, thanks.

 

19 minutes ago, LeBoiteux said:

About the Athenian trireme : here.

Can't go wrong with cambridge uni press, merci. 😋

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btw about Ancient sailing ships and their maneuvers, a book in French I haven't read yet but written by an Archaeologist of the IRAA (Institut de Recherche sur l'Architecture Antique) of the CNRS :  here. He knows what he talks about.

 

Edited by LeBoiteux
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If you really want to go into this in depth :

  • Basch L., Le musée imaginaire de la marine antique, Athènes, 1987, 525 p.
  • Ericsson Chr.H., Navis oneraria. The Cargo Carrier of Late Antiquity. Studies in Ancient Ship Carpentry, Abo, 1984, 108 p.
  • Gianfrotta P.A., Nieto X., Pomey P., Tchernia A., La navigation dans l'Antiquité, Aix-en-Provence, Edisud, 1997, 206 p.
  • Göttlicher A., Die Schiffe der Antike. Eine Einführung in die Archäologie der Wasserfahrzeug, Berlin, 1985, 156 p.
  • Greenhill B., Archaeology of the boat. A new introductory study, Middletown (Con.), Londres, 1976
  • Greenhill B., Morrison J., The Archaeology of Boats and Ships, Conway Maritime Press, 1976
  • McGrail S., Boats of the World. From the Stone Age to Medieval Times, Oxford U.P., 2001
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