STORY: An ancient shipwreck off the coast of Israel gives researchers unexpected insight into trade relations in the Mediterranean region some 1,200 years ago. The merchant ship, made of fir and walnut wood, had loaded goods from various places in the Mediterranean, explained project manager Deborah Cvikel from the University of Haifa: “We found fish sauce, grapes or raisins – that’s still unclear, different types of olives, figs. A cross-section of Mediterranean foods. Well stored and well preserved.” Initial analyzes indicate that the ship dates from the 7th or 8th century AD. A particularly interesting epoch for scientists. At that time, the largely Christian Byzantine Empire lost control of this part of the eastern Mediterranean. Islamic rule spread. So far, research has assumed that the new balance of power also had an impact on trade: “If we look at the history books, it usually says that this shift in power from Byzantine to Islamic rule brought trade to an almost complete standstill. There was no more international trade in the Mediterranean. There were only small ships that operated some coastal trade. And now here we have a large shipwreck that we think was originally about 25 meters long. And it was, in all modesty, loaded with cargo from all over the Mediterranean.” The artifacts on board show the ship docked in Cyprus, Egypt, possibly Turkey and perhaps even the North African coast, the researchers say. They hope that one day they will be able to raise the ship and show it to the public in its entirety. Otherwise, they want to cover it with sand and leave it on the seabed.
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