The world's oldest intact shipwreck has been pulled from the depths of the Black Sea after the most technologically advanced search ever.

Ships that sailed during Greek and Roman times – but preserved as if they were sunk only yesterday – were salvaged from the depths of the eastern European sea as part of the Black Sea Maritime Archaeological Project.

Carbon dated to 500 BC, the oldest vessel is 2,500 years old and resembles the ship depicted in the famous Siren Vase, now at the British Museum.

The second oldest of the 72 vessels recovered dates back to 200 AD.

Dr Kroum Batchvarov, who worked on the project, said: "We have complete vessel, with the masts still standing, with the quarter rudders in place.

"It is an incredible find. The first of its kind ever."

Because the Black Sea has no oxygen, the vessel has been so well preserved that even the monkfish bones, showing what Romans were eating, are intact on its deck.

Image: The ship is similar to that depicted on an ancient vase

"We even have the coils of line, of rope still as the bosun left them in the stern when the ship went down," Dr Batchvarov added. "This is unique."

The Black Sea project is a years-long scientific investigation, led by international institutions including Southampton University, exploring the way the Black Sea has changed and how this has affected human civilisation.

Funded by the Julia and Hans Rausing Trust, it has cost around £15m.

Among the advanced technologies used by the expedition are advanced geophysical techniques that allows scientists to see what is on the sea bed and even beneath it.

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Remotely operated vehicles have also been used, carrying equipment to map the sea bed and taking three-dimensional images. In the past, this equipment was usually carried by boat.

As well as shipwrecks, the survey has revealed a Bronze Age settlement, which is now submerged below the sea bed.

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