Scientists Conduct Black Sea Survey Off Bulgaria

  • Research & Development

An international team, involving the University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology (UK) and funded by the charitable organisation for marine research, the Expedition and Education Foundation (EEF), is surveying the Bulgarian waters of the Black Sea, where thousands of years ago large areas of land were inundated as the water level rose following the last Ice Age.

Professor Jon Adams, founding director of the University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology and principle investigator on the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (Black Sea MAP) said: “We’re endeavouring to answer some hotly-debated questions about when the water level rose, how rapidly it did so and what effects it had on human populations living along this stretch of the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea. As such, the primary focus of this project – and the scope of our funding from the EEF – is to carry out geophysical surveys to detect former land surfaces buried below the current seabed, take core samples and characterize and date them, and create a palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of Black Sea prehistory.”

Based on board the Stril Explorer, the international team of researchers is surveying the seabed using two remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

During these surveys, members of Black Sea MAP have also discovered and inspected a rare ‘collection’ of more than 40 shipwrecks. The wrecks, which include those from the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, provide new data on the maritime inter-connectivity of Black Sea coastal communities and manifest ways of life and seafaring that stretch back into prehistory.

Professor Adams added: “The wrecks are a complete bonus, but a fascinating discovery, found during the course of our extensive geophysical surveys. They are astonishingly preserved due to the anoxic conditions (absence of oxygen) of the Black Sea below 150 meters.

“Using the latest 3D recording technique for underwater structures, we’ve been able to capture some astonishing images without disturbing the seabed.”

The project operates under permits from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in strict adherence to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001).

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