Skip to main content

See also:

Oldest shipwreck in the Mediterranean discovered near Malta

Assyrian warship (probably built by Phoenicians) with two rows of oars, relief from Nineveh, circa 700 B.C.E.
Assyrian warship (probably built by Phoenicians) with two rows of oars, relief from Nineveh, circa 700 B.C.E.
British Museum CC-BY-SA-2.5,2.0,1.0

Dr. Timmy Gambin with the GROplan Project and researchers from France, the United States, and Malta announced the discovery of the oldest shipwreck in the Mediterranean that has been found to date. The discovery was announced in the Times of Malta on Aug. 25, 2014. The exact location of the vessel will not be released until all of the ship and its contents have been recovered. This measure is necessary to prevent theft of ancient artifacts for sale to individual collectors.

To date the archaeologists and anthropologists have recovered 20 lava grinding stones that weigh about 77 pounds each and 50 wine storage vessels called amphorae. The ship is located roughly one mile off Gozo Island. The artifacts date to 700 B.C.E. and are thought to be Phoenician.

The scientists estimate that the ship was possibly 50 feet in length. The wreck is about 400 feet deep. The cargo indicates the ship was sailing from Sicily to Malta when it sank. Photos of the dive site and a replica of a similar Phoenician ship can be seen here.

The Phoenician civilization was one of the first that was dependent on trade. The Phoenicians developed the galley and the two decked bireme. The Phoenicians are credited with developing the first known alphabet. The Phoenician civilization lasted from 1550 B.C.E. to 300 B.C.E. The Phoenicians are considered to have a Canaanite origin. The civilization was conquered by the Persians and then by the Greeks. Tyre and Lebanon are considered to be the centers of Phoenician civilization.

The Phoenicians are documented to have sailed from the coast of Lebanon to the Pillars of Hercules. Ancient texts including Egyptian, Greek, and the Hebrew Bible reference the Phoenicians as a thriving trade culture that existed as city-states. The ship may be the oldest and most complete Phoenician ship ever recovered.