Dispatch 2: Targets

July 6, 1999

(Note: Nationalgeographic.com does not research or edit dispatches.)

Very little archaeological work has been done in the waters of the Black Sea, so the expedition team faces a great many unknowns and a few strong possibilities.

What are some possible candidates for discovery? Let’s start from relatively recent history and move backward in time.

Photo of a sonar image

The Russians and the Ottomans fought a famous battle off the coast of Sinop in 1853. An entire fleet of wooden Ottoman warships was decimated by Russian guns, and sank within a few hours. Sonar images taken in 1998 may in fact show the location of one of those ships.

The Romans traded in the Black Sea area. Evidence of Roman wrecks could offer new insight into the trading activities of the Roman Empire and help delineate how specialized its various economies were.

It is believed that the Greeks settled Sinop in about the eighth century B.C. Wrecks from the Greek period would cast light on the earliest recorded history of the region. According to team member Brendan Foley, “Any wrecks older than that would begin to write new chapters in the history of human activity in the Black Sea.”

And, finally, going back to about 5000 B.C., it is possible that remains of Neolithic dwellings lie in the shallow waters of the sea. (See the Theory section of this site.) If so, the team faces a few challenges. Could the mud bricks used by these people as building materials have survived millennia of submergence? Sonar images may indicate the presence of building foundations, for example, but will video cameras be able to detect anything on the sea floor if the bricks have long ago dissolved?

According to Foley, the team is “certainly interested in providing archaeological evidence to support Pitman and Ryan’s theory. That would be a grand slam home run for the expedition.”

—Michael Heasley

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