A large-scale Bulgarian-British project for exploring the underwater archaeology of Bulgaria’s exclusive zone in the Black Sea has been started by the Sozopol-based Center for Underwater Archaeology at the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture and the Center for Maritime Archaeology of the University of Southampton.
The project has been approved by Bulgaria’s Minister of Culture Vezhdi Rashidov, the press service of the Culture Ministry has announced, adding that the joint project with the Center for Maritime Archaeology of the University of Southampton will be Bulgaria’s first research effort for Black Sea exploration to focus solely on archaeology.
The project is to be realized in compliance with the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protocol of the Underwater Cultural Heritage of which Bulgaria is a signatory.
Bulgaria’s Culture Ministry points out that the “invisible” underwater cultural heritage “is probably the most endangered part of [the country’s] cultural heritage”, and the archaeologists on the project team are set to adhere to the best international practices in this field.
“The achievements of the Bulgarian underwater archaeology in recent years are the reason the University of Southampton, and its Center for Maritime Archaeology have sought cooperation with the Bulgarian Center for Underwater Archaeology, a state institute at the Ministry of Culture,” the institution says.
The main goal of the Bulgarian-British project is to create a map of Bulgaria’s underwater archaeological heritage, and to collect further information about the sea level and climate changes which affected the life of prehistoric and ancient societies in the Black Sea region.
The researchers are going to locate and identify underwater archaeology sites off the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, and take bottom samples. They will use two sea vessels – one for the shallow and another for the deeper parts of the Black Sea section under Bulgarian jurisdiction.
The project, which will be fully funded with a grant provided to the University of Southampton by a charity foundation financing educational expeditions, will take 3 years for exploration and 1 year for analysis of the collected data. The findings will be published in international academic journals.
“The project will provide opportunities for the promotion of the underwater cultural heritage in the Bulgarian section of the Black Sea, and for the training of young experts with interests in the field of underwater archaeological explorations,” concludes the statement of the Bulgarian Culture Ministry.
The archaeological exploration of the Black Sea could reveal a lot of exciting finds. Some scholars even think that it could provide answers about the story of the Biblical Deluge and Noah’s Arc as the Black Sea is believed to have been a fresh water lake until several thousand years ago.
A major rise in sea levels (some describe it as a one time flooding which led to the Deluge stories not just in the Bible but also in different ancient mythologies) which connected it with the Mediterranean over the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles is believed to have destroyed a high prehistoric civilization living along its west and northwest coast.
What is more, the Black Sea is unique because below 200 meters (60 meters in some parts) it has no oxygen but only hydrogen sulfide, therefore any underwater archaeology sites or sunken ships at greater depths are supposed to have been perfectly preserved.
Check out some of our other stories about underwater archaeology in Bulgaria’s Black Sea section: