Athens, July 29 : A 21-meters long ancient Greek ship, which archaeologists believe sank in a storm some 800 metres off the Gela coast in Greece while transporting goods from the Greek colony in Gela back to Greece in around 500 BC, has been pulled out of the seabed, where it lay for nearly 2500 years.
On Monday coastguards and experts from the Caltanissetta Culture Department salvaged the vessel using a boat equipped with a crane able to lift loads of up to 200 tonnes. Around 20 other support craft joined the operation, sounding their fog horns when the wreck finally emerged from the water.
The 6.5 metres-wide ancient Greek vessel is said to be the biggest of its kind ever discovered. Earlier, four Greek vessels found off the coasts of Israel, Cyprus and France were at most 15 metres long.
Interestingly, it took two decades before the ship was finally pulled out of the waters, though the bow of the ship, along with an astounding array of amphorae, drinking cups, oil lamps and woven baskets, were brought to the surface in 2003.
Two scuba divers had first located it by chance in 1988.
It is said to be of particular value for scholars who will be able to delve into Greek naval construction techniques thanks to the amazing find of still-intact hemp ropes used to 'sew' together the pine planks in its hull - a technique described in Homer's Iliad. "Gela's ancient ship is the patrimony not only of Sicily, but of all humanity," the ansa.nit quoted Sicily's regional councillor for culture Antonello Antinoro as saying. Antinoro was present at the coast while the vessel was brought out yesterday.
Sicilian archaeologists have long hoped that the find will convince the world that Gela played a key role in ancient times as a major trading centre in the Mediterranean. Local officials hope the vessel will also turn the city into an attraction for culture lovers. "This moment signals the rebirth of Gela. The city's real history has emerged after 2500 years, but the story doesn't end here," said culture department head Rosalba Panvini. To preserve them, the pieces of the ship will be kept immersed in tanks full of the protective chemical polyethylene glycol before being transported to Portsmouth in the UK, where experts at the Mary Rose Archaeological Services will conserve and reconstruct the vessel. The culture department says it eventually plans to build a sea museum in Gela with the ship as the key exhibit.