Turkmenistan: The Truth Knowledge And History Of

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Turkmenistan

Introduction Eastern Turkmenistan for centuries formed part of the Persian province of Khurasan; in medieval times Merv (today known as Mary) was one of the great cities of the Islamic world and an important stop on the Silk Road. Annexed by Russia between 1865 and 1885, Turkmenistan became a Soviet republic in 1924. It achieved independence upon the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Extensive hydrocarbon/natural gas reserves could prove a boon to this underdeveloped country if extraction and delivery projects were to be expanded. The Turkmenistan Government is actively seeking to develop alternative petroleum transportation routes to break Russia’s pipeline monopoly. President for Life Saparmurat NYYAZOW died in December 2006, and Turkmenistan held its first multi-candidate presidential electoral process in February 2007. Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW, a vice premier under NYYAZOW, emerged as the country’s new president.
History The territory of Turkmenistan has a long and checkered history, as armies from one empire after another decamped there on their way to more prosperous territories. The region’s written history begins with its conquest by the Achaemenid Empire of ancient Persia, as the region was divided between the satrapies of Margiana, Khwarezm and Parthia.

Alexander the Great conquered the territory in the fourth century BCE on his way to South Asia, around the time that the Silk Road was established as a major trading route between Asia and the Mediterranean Region. One hundred and fifty years later, Persia’s Parthian Kingdom established its capital in Nisa, now in the suburbs of the capital, Ashgabat. In the seventh century CE, Arabs conquered this region, bringing with them Islam and incorporating the Turkmen into Middle Eastern culture. The Turkmenistan region soon came to be known as the capital of Greater Khorasan, when the caliph Al-Ma’mun moved his capital to Merv.

In the middle of the eleventh century, the Turkoman-ruled Seljuk Empire concentrated its strength in the territory of modern Turkmenistan in an attempt to expand into Khorasan (modern Afghanistan). The empire broke down in the second half of the twelfth century, and the Turkmen lost their independence when Genghis Khan took control of the eastern Caspian Sea region on his march west. For the next seven centuries, the Turkmen people lived under various empires and fought constant inter-tribal wars. Little is documented of Turkmen history prior to Russian engagement. However, from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, Turkmen formed a distinct ethnolinguistic group. As the Turkmen migrated from the area around the Mangyshlak Peninsula in contemporary Kazakhstan toward the Iranian border region and the Amu Darya basin, tribal Turkmen society further developed cultural traditions that became the foundation of Turkmen national consciousness.

Between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, control of Turkmenistan was fought over by Persian Shahs, Khivan Khans, the Emirs of Bukhara and the rulers of Afghanistan. During this period, Turkmen spiritual leader Magtymguly Pyragy reached prominence with his efforts to secure independence and autonomy for his people. At this time, the vast territory of Central Asia including the region of Turkmenistan was largely unmapped and virtually unknown to Europe and the Western world. Rivalry for control of the area between the British Empire and Tsarist Russia was characterized as The Great Game. Throughout their conquest of Central Asia, the Russians were met with the stiffest resistance by the Turkmen. By 1894, however, Russia had gained control of Turkmenistan and incorporated it into its empire. The rivalry officially concluded with the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Slowly, Russian and European cultures were introduced to the area. This was evident in the architecture of the newly-formed city of Ashgabat, which became the capital. The October Revolution of 1917 in Russia and subsequent political unrest led to the declaration of the area as the Turkmen SSR, one of the six republics of the Soviet Union in 1924, assuming the borders of modern Turkmenistan.

The new Turkmen SSR went through a process of further Europeanization. The tribal Turkmen people were encouraged to become secular and adopt European-style clothing. The Turkmen alphabet was changed from the traditional Arabic script to Latin and finally to Cyrillic. However, bringing the Turkmens to abandon their previous nomadic ways in favor of communism was not fully embraced until as late as 1948. Nationalist organizations in the region also existed during the 1920s and the 1930s.

When the Soviet Union began to collapse, Turkmenistan and the rest of the Central Asian states heavily favored maintaining a reformed version of the state, mainly because they needed the economic power and common markets of the Soviet Union to prosper. Turkmenistan declared independence on 27 October 1991, one of the last republics to secede.

In 1991, Turkmenistan became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, an international organization of former Soviet republics. However, Turkmenistan reduced its status in the organization to “associate member” in August 2005. The reason stated by the Turkmen president was the country’s policy of permanent neutrality. It is the only former Soviet state (aside from the Baltic states now in the European Union) without a full membership.

The former Soviet leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, remained in power as Turkmenistan’s leader after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Under his post-Soviet rule, Russian-Turkmeni relations greatly suffered.[citation needed] He styled himself as a promoter of traditional Muslim and Turkmen culture (calling himself “Turkmenbashi”, or “leader of the Turkmen people”), but he became notorious in the West for his dictatorial rule and extravagant cult of personality. The extent of his power greatly increased during the early 1990s, and in 1999 he became President for Life.

Niyazov died unexpectedly on 21 December 2006, leaving no heir apparent and an unclear line of succession. A former deputy prime minister rumored to be the illegitimate son of Niyazov, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, became acting president, although under the constitution the Chairman of the People’s Council, Ovezgeldy Atayev, should have succeeded to the post. However, Atayev was accused of crimes and removed from office.

In an election on 11 February 2007, Berdimuhamedow was elected president with 89% of the vote and 95% turnout, although the election was condemned by outside observers as unfair. He was sworn in on 14 February 2007.

Geography Location: Central Asia, bordering the Caspian Sea, between Iran and Kazakhstan
Geographic coordinates: 40 00 N, 60 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 488,100 sq km
land: 488,100 sq km
water: NEGL
Area – comparative: slightly larger than California
Land boundaries: total: 3,736 km
border countries: Afghanistan 744 km, Iran 992 km, Kazakhstan 379 km, Uzbekistan 1,621 km
Coastline: 0 km; note – Turkmenistan borders the Caspian Sea (1,768 km)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: subtropical desert
Terrain: flat-to-rolling sandy desert with dunes rising to mountains in the south; low mountains along border with Iran; borders Caspian Sea in west
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Vpadina Akchanaya -81 m; note – Sarygamysh Koli is a lake in northern Turkmenistan with a water level that fluctuates above and below the elevation of Vpadina Akchanaya (the lake has dropped as low as -110 m)
highest point: Gora Ayribaba 3,139 m
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, sulfur, salt
Land use: arable land: 4.51%
permanent crops: 0.14%
other: 95.35% (2005)
Irrigated land: 18,000 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 60.9 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 24.65 cu km/yr (2%/1%/98%)
per capita: 5,104 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: contamination of soil and groundwater with agricultural chemicals, pesticides; salination, water logging of soil due to poor irrigation methods; Caspian Sea pollution; diversion of a large share of the flow of the Amu Darya into irrigation contributes to that river’s inability to replenish the Aral Sea; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: landlocked; the western and central low-lying desolate portions of the country make up the great Garagum (Kara-Kum) desert, which occupies over 80% of the country; eastern part is plateau
Politics After 69 years as part of the Soviet Union (including 67 years as a union republic), Turkmenistan declared its independence on 27 October 1991.

President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov, a former bureaucrat of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, ruled Turkmenistan from 1985, when he became head of the Communist Party of the Turkmen SSR, until his death in 2006. He retained absolute control over the country after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. On 28 December 1999, Niyazov was declared President for Life of Turkmenistan by the Mejlis (parliament), which itself had taken office a week earlier in elections that included only candidates hand-picked by President Niyazov. No opposition candidates were allowed.

The politics of Turkmenistan take place in the framework of a presidential republic, with the President both head of state and head of government. Under Niyazov, Turkmenistan had a single-party system; however, in September 2008, the People’s Council unanimously passed a resolution adopting a new Constitution. The latter resulted in the abolition of the Council and a significant increase in the size of Parliament in December 2008. The new Constitution also permits the formation of multiple political parties.

The current President of Turkmenistan is Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who took control following Niyazov’s death in December 2006.

The former Communist Party, now known as the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, has been the only one effectively permitted to operate. Political gatherings are illegal unless government sanctioned.

People Population: 5,179,571 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 34.2% (male 902,811/female 868,428)
15-64 years: 61.5% (male 1,577,187/female 1,607,353)
65 years and over: 4.3% (male 97,480/female 126,312) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 22.6 years
male: 22 years
female: 23.1 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.596% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 25.07 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.11 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -3 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.77 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 51.81 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 56.01 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 47.4 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 68.6 years
male: 65.53 years
female: 71.82 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.07 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2004 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: fewer than 200 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 100 (2004 est.)
Nationality: noun: Turkmen(s)
adjective: Turkmenistani
Ethnic groups: Turkmen 85%, Uzbek 5%, Russian 4%, other 6% (2003)
Religions: Muslim 89%, Eastern Orthodox 9%, unknown 2%
Languages: Turkmen 72%, Russian 12%, Uzbek 9%, other 7%
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98.8%
male: 99.3%
female: 98.3% (1999 est.)
Education expenditures: 3.9% of GDP (1991)
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Turkmenistan
local long form: none
local short form: Turkmenistan
former: Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic
Government type: republic; authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch
Capital: name: Ashgabat (Ashkhabad)
geographic coordinates: 37 57 N, 58 23 E
time difference: UTC+5 (10 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 5 provinces (welayatlar, singular – welayat) and 1 independent city*: Ahal Welayaty (Anew), Ashgabat*, Balkan Welayaty (Balkanabat), Dashoguz Welayaty, Lebap Welayaty (Turkmenabat), Mary Welayaty
note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions have the administrative center name following in parentheses)
Independence: 27 October 1991 (from Soviet Union)
National holiday: Independence Day, 27 October (1991)
Constitution: adopted 18 May 1992
Legal system: based on civil law system and Islamic law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW (since 14 February 2007); note – the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW (since 14 February 2007)
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held on 11 February 2007 (next to be held in February 2012)
election results: Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW elected president; percent of vote – Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW 89.2%, Amanyaz ATAJYKOW 3.2%, other candidates 7.6%
Legislative branch: unicameral parliament known as the National Assembly (Mejlis) (125 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 14 December 2008 (next to be held December 2013)
election results: 100% of elected officials are members of either the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan or its pseudo-civil society parent organization, the Revival Movement, and are preapproved by the president
note: in autumn 2008, the constitution of Turkmenistan was revised to abolish the 2,507-member legislative body known as the People’s Council and to expand the number of deputies in the National Assembly from 65 to 125; the powers formerly held by the People’s Council were divided up between the President and the National Assembly
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president)
Political parties and leaders: Democratic Party of Turkmenistan or DPT [Gurbanguly BERDIMUHAMEDOW]
note: formal opposition parties are outlawed; unofficial, small opposition movements exist abroad; the three most prominent opposition groups-in-exile are the National Democratic Movement of Turkmenistan (NDMT), the Republican Party of Turkmenistan, and the Watan (Fatherland) Party; the NDMT was led by former Foreign Minister Boris SHIKHMURADOV until his arrest and imprisonment in the wake of the 25 November 2002 attack on President NYYAZOW’s motorcade
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: ADB, CIS, EAPC, EBRD, ECO, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OSCE, PFP, SCO (guest), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Meret Bairamovich ORAZOW
chancery: 2207 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 588-1500
FAX: [1] (202) 588-0697
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d’Affaires Richard M. MILES
embassy: No. 9 1984 Street (formerly Pushkin Street), Ashgabat, Turkmenistan 744000
mailing address: 7070 Ashgabat Place, Washington, DC 20521-7070
telephone: [993] (12) 35-00-45
FAX: [993] (12) 39-26-14
Flag description: green field with a vertical red stripe near the hoist side, containing five tribal guls (designs used in producing carpets) stacked above two crossed olive branches; a white crescent moon representing Islam with five white stars representing the regions or welayats of Turkmenistan appear in the upper corner of the field just to the fly side of the red stripe
Culture The Turkmen people have traditionally been nomads and horsemen, and even today after the fall of the USSR attempts to urbanize but the Turkmens have not been very successful. They never really formed a coherent nation or ethnic group until they were forged into one by Joseph Stalin in the 1930s. Rather they are divided into clans, and each clan has its own dialect and style of dress. Turkmens are famous for making gillams, mistakenly called Bukhara rugs in the West. These are elaborate and colorful rugs, and these too help indicate the distinction between the various Turkmen clans.

The Turkmens are Sunni Muslims but they, like most of the region’s nomads, adhere to Islam rather loosely and combine Islam with pre-Islamic animist spirituality. The Turkmens do indeed tend to be spiritual but are by no means militantly religious.

A Turkmen can be identified anywhere by the traditional “telpek” hats, which are large black sheepskin hats that resemble afros. The national dress: men wear high, shaggy sheepskin hats and red robes over white shirts. Women wear long sack-dresses over narrow trousers (the pants are trimmed with a band of embroidery at the ankle). Female headdresses usually consist of silver jewellery. Bracelets and brooches are set with semi-precious stones…

In language, Turkmens speak Turkmen, related most closely to Turkish and Azerbaijani. Virtually everyone, however, even in the remote desert regions, speaks Russian.

Two significant figures in Turkmen literature are the poets Feragi Makhtumkuli and Mametveli Kemine.

Economy Economy – overview: Turkmenistan is largely a desert country with intensive agriculture in irrigated oases and sizeable gas and oil resources. One-half of its irrigated land is planted in cotton; formerly it was the world’s 10th-largest producer. Poor harvests in recent years have led to an almost 50% decline in cotton exports. With an authoritarian ex-Communist regime in power and a tribally based social structure, Turkmenistan has taken a cautious approach to economic reform, hoping to use gas and cotton sales to sustain its inefficient economy. Privatization goals remain limited. From 1998-2005, Turkmenistan suffered from the continued lack of adequate export routes for natural gas and from obligations on extensive short-term external debt. At the same time, however, total exports rose by an average of roughly 15% per year from 2003-08, largely because of higher international oil and gas prices. A new pipeline to China, set to come online in late 2009 or early 2010, will give Turkmenistan an additional export route for its gas. Overall prospects in the near future are discouraging because of widespread internal poverty, a poor educational system, government misuse of oil and gas revenues, and Ashgabat’s reluctance to adopt market-oriented reforms. In the past, Turkmenistan’s economic statistics were state secrets. The new government has established a State Agency for Statistics, but GDP numbers and other figures are subject to wide margins of error. In particular, the rate of GDP growth is uncertain. Since his election, President BERDIMUHAMEDOW has sought to improve the health and education systems, unified the country’s dual currency exchange rate, ordered the redenomination of the manat, reduced state subsidies for gasoline, increased internet access both in schools and internet cafes, ordered an independent audit of Turkmenistan’s gas resources, and created a special tourism zone on the Caspian Sea. Although foreign investment is encouraged, numerous bureaucratic obstacles from the NYYZOW-era remain.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $30.19 billion (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $28.82 billion (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 7.5% (IMF estimate)
note: official government statistics are widely regarded as unreliable (2008 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $5,800 (2008 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 10.7%
industry: 38.8%
services: 50.4% (2008 est.)
Labor force: 2.089 million (2004 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 48.2%
industry: 14%
services: 37.8% (2004 est.)
Unemployment rate: 60% (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line: 30% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.6%
highest 10%: 31.7% (1998)
Distribution of family income – Gini index: 40.8 (1998)
Investment (gross fixed): 11.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budget: revenues: $1.393 billion
expenditures: $1.42 billion (2008 est.)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 18% (2008 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Agriculture – products: cotton, grain; livestock
Industries: natural gas, oil, petroleum products, textiles, food processing
Electricity – production: 12.83 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – consumption: 9.584 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – exports: 1.34 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – imports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 99.9%
hydro: 0.1%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil – production: NA
Oil – consumption: 107,400 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil – exports: 40,000 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – imports: 5,283 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – proved reserves: 600 million bbl (1 January 2008 est.)
Natural gas – production: 68.88 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 19.48 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 49.4 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 2.832 trillion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)
Current account balance: $2.897 billion (2008 est.)
Exports: $9.887 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Exports – commodities: gas, crude oil, petrochemicals, textiles, cotton fiber
Exports – partners: Ukraine 51.3%, Iran 18.5%, Turkey 5% (2007)
Imports: $5.291 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Imports – commodities: machinery and equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs
Imports – partners: UAE 14.3%, Russia 11.6%, Turkey 10.3%, China 9.1%, Ukraine 8.7%, Iran 7%, Germany 6.5%, US 5.6% (2007)
Economic aid – recipient: $28.25 million from the US (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $5.501 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt – external: $1.4 billion to $5 billion (2004 est.)
Currency (code): Turkmen manat (TMM)
Currency code: TMM
Exchange rates: Turkmen manat (TMM) per US dollar – 14,250 (as of 1 May 2008 est.)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 457,900 (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 810,000 (2008)
Telephone system: general assessment: telecommunications network remains underdeveloped and progress toward improvement is slow; strict government control and censorship inhibits liberalization and modernization
domestic: Turkmentelekom, in cooperation with foreign partners, has installed high speed fiber-optic lines and has upgraded most of the country’s telephone exchanges and switching centers with new digital technology; mobile telephone usage is expanding with Russia’s Mobile Telesystems (MTS) the primary service provider
international: country code – 993; linked by fiber-optic cable and microwave radio relay to other CIS republics and to other countries by leased connections to the Moscow international gateway switch; an exchange in Ashgabat switches international traffic through Turkey via Intelsat; satellite earth stations – 1 Orbita and 1 Intelsat (2008)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 16, FM 8, shortwave 2 (1998)
Radios: 1.225 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 4 (government-owned and programmed) (2004)
Televisions: 820,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .tm
Internet hosts: 640 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1
Internet users: 70,000 (2007)
Transportation Airports: 28 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 22
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 11
1,524 to 2,437 m: 8
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 6
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
under 914 m: 4 (2007)
Heliports: 1 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 6,441 km; oil 1,361 km (2007)
Railways: total: 2,440 km
broad gauge: 2,440 km 1.520-m gauge (2006)
Roadways: total: 58,592 km
paved: 47,577 km
unpaved: 11,015 km (2002)
Waterways: 1,300 km (Amu Darya and Kara Kum canal are important inland waterways) (2008)
Merchant marine: total: 7
by type: cargo 4, petroleum tanker 2, refrigerated cargo 1 (2008)
Ports and terminals: Turkmenbasy
Military Military branches: Ground Forces, Navy, Air and Air Defense Forces (2007)
Military service age and obligation: 18-30 years of age for compulsory military service; 2-year conscript service obligation (2007)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 1,316,698
females age 16-49: 1,331,005 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 1,064,965
females age 16-49: 1,136,553 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 57,615
female: 55,426 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures: 3.4% of GDP (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: cotton monoculture in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan creates water-sharing difficulties for Amu Darya river states; field demarcation of the boundaries with Kazakhstan commenced in 2005, but Caspian seabed delimitation remains stalled with Azerbaijan, Iran, and Kazakhstan due to Turkmenistan’s indecision over how to allocate the sea’s waters and seabed
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 11,173 (Tajikistan); less than 1,000 (Afghanistan) (2007)
Illicit drugs: transit country for Afghan narcotics bound for Russian and Western European markets; transit point for heroin precursor chemicals bound for Afghanistan

Lost World Of Shipwrecks Have Been Found In The Black Sea Off Of Bulgarian Coast

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIME’S, SCIENCE SECTION)

An image of the well-preserved medieval ship found at the bottom of the Black Sea, one of more than 40 wrecks discovered. Photogrammetry, a process using thousands of photographs and readings, produced a rendering that appears three-dimensional.Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

The medieval ship lay more than a half-mile down at the bottom of the Black Sea, its masts, timbers and planking undisturbed in the darkness for seven or eight centuries. Lack of oxygen in the icy depths had ruled out the usual riot of creatures that feast on sunken wood.

This fall, a team of explorers lowered a robot on a long tether, lit up the wreck with bright lights and took thousands of high-resolution photos. A computer then merged the images into a detailed portrait.

Archaeologists date the discovery to the 13th or 14th century, opening a new window on forerunners of the 15th- and 16th-century sailing vessels that discovered the New World, including those of Columbus. This medieval ship probably served the Venetian empire, which had Black Sea outposts.

Never before had this type of ship been found in such complete form. The breakthrough was the quarterdeck, from which the captain would have directed a crew of perhaps 20 sailors.

“That’s never been seen archaeologically,” said Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, an expedition member at the Center for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton, in Britain. “We couldn’t believe our eyes.”

A photogrammetric image of a ship from the Ottoman era that most likely went down between the 17th and 19th centuries. The discoverers nicknamed it the Flower of the Black Sea because of its ornate carvings, including two large posts topped with petals. Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

Remarkably, the find is but one of more than 40 shipwrecks that the international team recently discovered and photographed off the Bulgarian coast in one of archaeology’s greatest coups.

In age, the vessels span a millennium, from the Byzantine to the Ottoman empires, from the ninth to the 19th centuries. Generally, the ships are in such good repair that the images reveal intact coils of rope, rudders and elaborately carved decorations.

“They’re astonishingly preserved,” said Jon Adams, the leader of the Black Sea project and founding director of the maritime archaeology center at the University of Southampton.

Kroum Batchvarov, a team member at the University of Connecticut who grew up in Bulgaria and has conducted other studies in its waters, said the recent discoveries “far surpassed my wildest expectations.”

Independent experts said the annals of deepwater archaeology hold few, if any, comparable sweeps of discovery in which shipwrecks have proved to be so plentiful, diverse and well-preserved.

A photogrammetric image of the stern of the Ottoman-era ship showing coils of rope and a tiller with elaborate carvings. A lack of oxygen at the icy depths of the Black Sea left the wrecks relatively undisturbed.Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

“It’s a great story,” said Shelley Wachsmann of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University. “We can expect some real contributions to our understanding of ancient trade routes.”

Goods traded on the Black Sea included grains, furs, horses, oils, cloth, wine and people. The Tatars turned Christians into slaves who were shipped to places like Cairo. For Europeans, the sea provided access to a northern branch of the Silk Road and imports of silk, satin, musk, perfumes, spices and jewels.

Marco Polo reportedly visited the Black Sea, and Italian merchant colonies dotted its shores. The profits were so enormous that, in the 13th and 14th centuries, Venice and Genoa fought a series of wars for control of the trade routes, including those of the Black Sea.

Brendan P. Foley, an archaeologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., said the good condition of the shipwrecks implied that many objects inside their hulls might also be intact.

“You might find books, parchment, written documents,” he said in an interview. “Who knows how much of this stuff was being transported? But now we have the possibility of finding out. It’s amazing.”

Experts said the success in Bulgarian waters might inspire other nations that control portions of the Black Sea to join the archaeological hunt. They are Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Dr. Foley, who has explored a number of Black Sea wrecks, said the sea’s overall expanse undoubtedly held tens of thousands of lost ships. “Everything that sinks out there is going to be preserved,” he added. “They’re not going away.”

For ages, the Black Sea was a busy waterway that served the Balkans, the Eurasian steppes, the Caucasus, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Greece. It long beckoned to archaeologists because they knew its deep waters lacked oxygen, a rarity for large bodies of water.

The great rivers of Eastern Europe — the Don, the Danube, the Dnieper — pour so much fresh water into the sea that a permanent layer forms over denser, salty water from the Mediterranean. As a result, oxygen from the atmosphere that mixes readily with fresh water never penetrates the inky depths.

In 1976, Willard Bascom, a pioneer of oceanography, in his book “Deep Water, Ancient Ships,” called the Black Sea unique among the world’s seas and a top candidate for exploration and discovery.

A photogrammetric image of a Byzantine wreck, dating perhaps to the ninth century. Superimposed is an image of one of the expedition’s tethered robots that photographed the lost ships.CreditExpedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

“One is tempted,” he wrote, “to begin searching there in spite of the huge expanse of bottom that would have to be inspected.”

In 2002, Robert D. Ballard, a discoverer of the sunken Titanic, led a Black Sea expedition that found a 2,400-year-old wreck laden with the clay storage jars of antiquity. One held remnants of a large fish that had been dried and cut into steaks, a popular food in ancient Greece.

The new team said it received exploratory permits from the Bulgarian ministries of culture and foreign affairs and limited its Black Sea hunts to parts of that nation’s exclusive economic zone, which covers thousands of square miles and runs up to roughly a mile deep.

Although the team’s official name is the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project, or Black Sea MAP, it also hauls up sediments to hunt for clues to how the sea’s rising waters engulfed former land surfaces and human settlements.

Team members listed on its website include the Bulgarian National Institute of Archaeology, the Bulgarian Center for Underwater Archaeology, Sodertorn University in Sweden, and the Hellenic Center for Marine Research in Greece.

An illustration of what the research team believes the medieval ship found in the Black Sea looked like during its heyday. Credit Jon Adams/University of Southampton/Black Sea MAP

The project’s financial backer is the Expedition and Education Foundation, a charity registered in Britain whose benefactors want to remain anonymous, team members said. Dr. Adams of the University of Southampton, the team’s scientific leader, described it as catalyzing an academic-industry partnership on the largest project “of its type ever undertaken.”

Nothing is known publicly about the cost, presumably vast, of the Black Sea explorations, which are to run for three years. The endeavor began last year with a large Greek ship doing a preliminary survey. This year, the main vessel was the Stril Explorer, a British-flagged ship bearing a helicopter landing pad that usually services the undersea pipes and structures of the offshore oil industry.

Instead, archaeologists on the ship lowered its sophisticated robots to hunt for ancient shipwrecks and lost history.

In an interview, Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz of the University of Southampton said he was watching the monitors late one night in September when the undersea robot lit up a large wreck in a high state of preservation.

“I was speechless,” he recalled. “When I saw the ropes, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I still can’t.”

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Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz said the vessel hailed from the Ottoman Empire, whose capital was Constantinople (today Istanbul), and most likely went down sometime between the 17th and 19th centuries. He said the team nicknamed it “Flower of the Black Sea” because its deck bears ornate carvings, including two large posts with tops that form petals.

In an interview, Dr. Batchvarov of the University of Connecticut said most of the discoveries date to the Ottoman era. So it was that, late one night, during his shift, he assumed that a new wreck coming into view would be more of the same.

“Then I saw a quarter rudder,” he recalled, referring to a kind of large steering oar on a ship’s side. It implied the wreck was much older. Then another appeared. Quickly, he had the expedition’s leader, Dr. Adams, awakened.

“He came immediately,” Dr. Batchvarov recalled. “We looked at each other like two little boys in a candy shop.”

Dr. Batchvarov said the wreck — the medieval one found more than a half-mile down — was part of a class known by several names, including cocha and “round ship.” The latter name arose from how its ample girth let it carry more cargo and passengers than a warship.

Dr. Adams said the remarkable color images of the lost ships derived from a process known as photogrammetry. It combines photography with the careful measurement of distances between objects, letting a computer turn flat images into renderings that seem three-dimensional.

He said tethered robots shot the photographic images with video and still cameras. The distance information, he added, came from advanced sonars, which emit high-pitched sounds that echo through seawater. Their measurements, he said, can range down to less than a millimeter.

A news release from the University of Southampton refers to the images as “digital models.” Their creation, it said, “takes days even with the fastest computers.”

Filmmakers are profiling the Black Sea hunt in a documentary, according to the team’s website.

Another part of the project seeks to share the thrill of discovery with schools and educators. Students are to study on the Black Sea, the website says, or join university scientists in analyzing field samples “to uncover the mysteries of the past.”

The team has said little publicly on whether it plans to excavate the ships — a topic on which nations, academics and treasure hunters have long clashed. Bulgaria is a signatory to the 2001 United Nations convention that outlaws commercial trade in underwater cultural heritage and sets out guidelines on such things as artifact recovery and public display.

Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz said the team had so far discovered and photographed 44 shipwrecks, and that more beckoned.

Which was the most important? Dr. Adams said that for him, a student of early European shipbuilding, the centerpiece was the medieval round ship. He said it evoked Marco Polo and city states like Venice. The ship, he added, incorporated a number of innovations that let it do more than its predecessors had and paved the way for bigger things to come.

“It’s not too much,” he said, “to say that medieval Europe became modern with the help of ships like these.”

Riyadh, Beijing Launch Digital Silk Road Initiative

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Riyadh, Beijing Launch Digital Silk Road Initiative

Tuesday, 12 December, 2017 – 12:15
Riyadh – Asharq Al-Awsat

Undersecretary of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology for Saudi Planning and Development Dr. Mohammed al-Mishaigeh revealed that his country has embarked on transformation programs and developing young talents and establishing innovation labs during his participation in the World Internet Conference, which concluded Monday in Wuzhen City, east China.

Mishaigeh said that the Kingdom and China have also launched Digital Silk Road initiative, and he called on the Chinese to boost partnerships and benefit from Saudi investment and geographical capabilities to transfer knowledge and achieve progress in the field of technology, which the Kingdom is betting on as a knowledge and economic resource.

He pointed out that the city of NEOM will be the focus of artificial intelligence, automation, manufacturing and renewable energy in the world.

Speaking at the conference, Mishaigeh said that his country has started implementing the desired social and economic transformation led by Vision 2030, which aims to bring about profound changes that will extend to many aspects of life reaching the lead in all aspects.

Notably, the Saudi participating delegation has visited the Huawei Research Center in Shanghai to learn about the latest technologies in infrastructure, smart cities and the Chinese experience in enabling the digital economy in the indoor environment.

On the sidelines of the conference, the delegation held a meeting with the National Development and Reform Commission, during which a mechanism was discussed to activate the terms of the memorandum of understanding signed between the two parties in January 2016 on promoting the development of the Digital Silk Road as well as a review of the Chinese experience in building smart cities.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, represented by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, has participated in the World Internet Conference, which was organized by Chinese Electronic Space Administration and Zhejiang Province’s Government with participation of leading figures from governments, international organizations, companies, competent technical sector departments as well as non-government relevant agencies.

China’s Silk Road push in Thailand may founder on Mekong River row

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

China’s Silk Road push in Thailand may founder on Mekong River row

A Chinese boat, with a team of geologists, surveys the Mekong River at border between Laos and Thailand April 23, 2017. Picture taken April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
By Brenda Goh and Andrew R.C. Marshall | KHON PI LONG, THAILAND

China’s plan to blast open more of the Mekong River for bigger cargo ships could founder on a remote outcrop of half-submerged rocks that Thai protesters have vowed to protect against Beijing’s economic expansion in Southeast Asia.

Dynamiting the Pi Long rapids and other sections of the Mekong between Thailand and Laos will harm the environment and bring trade advantages only to China, the protesters say.

“This will be the death of the Mekong,” said Niwat Roykaew, chairman of the Rak Chiang Khong Conservation Group, which is campaigning against the project. “You’ll never be able to revive it.”

Niwat said blasting the Mekong will destroy fish breeding grounds, disrupt migrating birds and cause increased water flow that will erode riverside farmland.

Such opposition reflects a wider challenge to China’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” project to build a modern-day Silk Road through Asia to Europe.

Second Harbour Consultants, a subsidiary of state-owned behemoth China Communications Construction Corp (CCCC) (601800.SS) said it was surveying the Mekong for a report that China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand would use to decide whether blasting should go ahead.

It added that it was not tasked with the blasting work, which would need to be tendered.

The company said in an e-mail it had held meetings with local people “to communicate, build confidence and clear doubts.”

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clearing the Mekong for bigger ships is not officially a part of One Belt, One Road, a project announced in 2013; China blasted sections of the river in Laos several years earlier.

But some Chinese engineers involved in the survey speak of it as a part of the broader plan, and it is consistent with Beijing’s Silk Road objectives.

Even in its Southeast Asian backyard, where it has sympathetic governments and ancient historical ties, China sometimes struggles to convince ordinary people that One Belt One Road will benefit them.

Thailand, Laos and Myanmar have approved the survey work, which is funded by China, but further studies and approvals are needed before blasting.

KEEPING A LOW PROFILE

The Mekong River originates in the Tibetan plateau and cascades through China and five Southeast Asian countries.

China has built a series of dams along its stretch of the river that Thai campaigners say has impacted the water flow and made the regional giant hard to trust.

Chinese flags now flutter from company speedboats, while CCCC Second Harbour has met with Thai protesters three times since December in a bid to avert opposition to their work.

A unit of the conglomerate faced violent protests in January in Sri Lanka, where people objected to plans for an industrial zone in the south.

Chinese engineers on the Mekong said they were worried that Thai protesters would board the rickety cargo ship where they slept, prompting them to moor it on the Laotian side of the Mekong each night.

“We are afraid for our team’s safety,” one engineer told Reuters, declining to be named because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

“We keep a low profile here,” he added. “We want to do this project well and benefit Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, China, these four countries. This is not just for China.”

China wants to remove rocks and sandbanks to allow ships of up to 500 tonnes to sail from its landlocked province of Yunnan to the sleepy Laotian town of Luang Prabang.

That would expedite the shipping of Chinese freight deep into northern Laos, said Paul Chambers, an expert in international relations at Thailand’s Naresuan University.

“Luang Prabang may seem sleepy, but northern Laos … represents a hub of Chinese influence,” he said.

LOCALS REMAIN WARY

Despite reassurances from CCCC Second Harbour, some locals still believed the engineers were marking out areas for blasting, said Niwat, who represented campaigners in meetings with the Chinese company.

His group draped a large white banner reading “Mekong Not For Sale” on the bank overlooking the Pi Long rapids, whose name in Thai means “lost ghosts.”

“At the moment we’re only thinking about the economy and the earning figures without considering the unimaginable value of the eco-system to humanity,” he said.

The military seized power in Thailand in 2014 and banned gatherings of five or more people.

But Narongsak Osotthanakorn, governor of Chiang Rai – the Thai province where the Mekong is currently being surveyed – said people could “protest freely” against the Chinese plan.

Narongsak said the survey was the first stage in a process that would include an environmental study, public hearings and negotiations between China, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.

While he wouldn’t say whether or not he supported blasting, Narongsak said local people had much to gain from increased river trade. “I think no country would be happy to lose the benefits,” he said.

(Editing by Mike Collett-White)

Significant Breakthroughs For Riyadh Diplomacy In China And In The U.S.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Significant Breakthroughs for Riyadh

This has been a significant week for Saudi diplomacy: reinforcing relations with China, the biggest oil importer in the world and opening a new page with US President Donald Trump to mend what has been ruined by former President Barack Obama who strengthened ties with Iran against Gulf and Saudi interests.

Saudi Arabia that has found itself cornered due to wars, oil and geopolitical changes is carrying out a defense campaign in return — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is convening with China leadership that asked to mediate with Iran that is now seeking reconciliation. Meanwhile, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz met with the US president.

A Saudi spokesperson described to Bloomberg the meeting in the White House as “a turning point”, saying: “Today’s meeting has put things on the right track and marked a significant shift in relations, across all political, military, security and economic fields.” There is a clear hinting on fixing what has been ruined by Obama and restoring special relations between the two countries – these relations were established based on the outcome of the meeting held between King Abdulaziz and US President Theodore Roosevelt on board of the Navy cruiser Quincy after the end of World War II.

Officially, little has been said on the meeting of Deputy Crown Prince and Trump, who has become a president two months ago, but the White House showed huge interest. Trump held the meeting two days ahead and included the vice-president in it.

What has been stated by unofficial sources reveals that Washington has changed its policy towards Iran and that it would not sit idle when it comes to Iran’s terrorist activities. Weeks ago, the US administration announced a different stance in which it permitted loading ammunition and providing intelligence information to support Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

Saudi-US relations were tense during the presidency of Obama. In fact, the whole region underwent an unprecedented turmoil because Obama’s openness towards Iran urged its military expansion in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Chaos is one of his tenure consequences, also.

Among the topics raised by Prince Mohammed during his visit was to persuade Trump with a new relation that seeks mending the situation, confronting Iran’s manipulation and fighting terrorism – the common enemy of everyone – via fighting it socially and economically. A spokesperson in the delegation pointed out that the US party is interested in reinforcing participation in the economic vision projects.

In China, Iran was not the only topic on the table especially that relations are good in: oil, economy, military cooperation and critical files, basically the military cooperation. There is also the promising project of China, the Silk Road – a giant economic project of complex political problematic issues because it passes in conflict regions. This road might benefit from Saudi Arabia as a passage or a parallel route.

Information released by Beijing reveals that it will quietly continue to consolidate its presence in west Asia and east Africa. China is the second strongest economic power after the US and, as major countries, needs raw materials, energy sources, trade passages and a protection for its investments and interests.

Unlike other major countries, China does not rely on military presence to impose its influence but rather uses its economic presence to impose its stances and secure its interests.

There are two models in the Middle East: one that seeks reinforcing relations via economic and development cooperation and another that uses wars and terrorism as a method to impose its relations.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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Lost World Of Shipwrecks Have Been Found In The Black Sea Off Of Bulgarian Coast

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIME’S, SCIENCE SECTION)

An image of the well-preserved medieval ship found at the bottom of the Black Sea, one of more than 40 wrecks discovered. Photogrammetry, a process using thousands of photographs and readings, produced a rendering that appears three-dimensional.Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

The medieval ship lay more than a half-mile down at the bottom of the Black Sea, its masts, timbers and planking undisturbed in the darkness for seven or eight centuries. Lack of oxygen in the icy depths had ruled out the usual riot of creatures that feast on sunken wood.

This fall, a team of explorers lowered a robot on a long tether, lit up the wreck with bright lights and took thousands of high-resolution photos. A computer then merged the images into a detailed portrait.

Archaeologists date the discovery to the 13th or 14th century, opening a new window on forerunners of the 15th- and 16th-century sailing vessels that discovered the New World, including those of Columbus. This medieval ship probably served the Venetian empire, which had Black Sea outposts.

Never before had this type of ship been found in such complete form. The breakthrough was the quarterdeck, from which the captain would have directed a crew of perhaps 20 sailors.

“That’s never been seen archaeologically,” said Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, an expedition member at the Center for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton, in Britain. “We couldn’t believe our eyes.”

A photogrammetric image of a ship from the Ottoman era that most likely went down between the 17th and 19th centuries. The discoverers nicknamed it the Flower of the Black Sea because of its ornate carvings, including two large posts topped with petals. Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

Remarkably, the find is but one of more than 40 shipwrecks that the international team recently discovered and photographed off the Bulgarian coast in one of archaeology’s greatest coups.

In age, the vessels span a millennium, from the Byzantine to the Ottoman empires, from the ninth to the 19th centuries. Generally, the ships are in such good repair that the images reveal intact coils of rope, rudders and elaborately carved decorations.

“They’re astonishingly preserved,” said Jon Adams, the leader of the Black Sea project and founding director of the maritime archaeology center at the University of Southampton.

Kroum Batchvarov, a team member at the University of Connecticut who grew up in Bulgaria and has conducted other studies in its waters, said the recent discoveries “far surpassed my wildest expectations.”

Independent experts said the annals of deepwater archaeology hold few, if any, comparable sweeps of discovery in which shipwrecks have proved to be so plentiful, diverse and well-preserved.

A photogrammetric image of the stern of the Ottoman-era ship showing coils of rope and a tiller with elaborate carvings. A lack of oxygen at the icy depths of the Black Sea left the wrecks relatively undisturbed.Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

“It’s a great story,” said Shelley Wachsmann of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University. “We can expect some real contributions to our understanding of ancient trade routes.”

Goods traded on the Black Sea included grains, furs, horses, oils, cloth, wine and people. The Tatars turned Christians into slaves who were shipped to places like Cairo. For Europeans, the sea provided access to a northern branch of the Silk Road and imports of silk, satin, musk, perfumes, spices and jewels.

Marco Polo reportedly visited the Black Sea, and Italian merchant colonies dotted its shores. The profits were so enormous that, in the 13th and 14th centuries, Venice and Genoa fought a series of wars for control of the trade routes, including those of the Black Sea.

Brendan P. Foley, an archaeologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., said the good condition of the shipwrecks implied that many objects inside their hulls might also be intact.

“You might find books, parchment, written documents,” he said in an interview. “Who knows how much of this stuff was being transported? But now we have the possibility of finding out. It’s amazing.”

ROMANIA

RUSSIA

Bulgaria’s

Exclusive

Economic

Zone

BLACK SEA

BULGARIA

GEORGIA

GREECE

TURKEY

Athens

Experts said the success in Bulgarian waters might inspire other nations that control portions of the Black Sea to join the archaeological hunt. They are Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Dr. Foley, who has explored a number of Black Sea wrecks, said the sea’s overall expanse undoubtedly held tens of thousands of lost ships. “Everything that sinks out there is going to be preserved,” he added. “They’re not going away.”

For ages, the Black Sea was a busy waterway that served the Balkans, the Eurasian steppes, the Caucasus, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Greece. It long beckoned to archaeologists because they knew its deep waters lacked oxygen, a rarity for large bodies of water.

The great rivers of Eastern Europe — the Don, the Danube, the Dnieper — pour so much fresh water into the sea that a permanent layer forms over denser, salty water from the Mediterranean. As a result, oxygen from the atmosphere that mixes readily with fresh water never penetrates the inky depths.

In 1976, Willard Bascom, a pioneer of oceanography, in his book “Deep Water, Ancient Ships,” called the Black Sea unique among the world’s seas and a top candidate for exploration and discovery.

A photogrammetric image of a Byzantine wreck, dating perhaps to the ninth century. Superimposed is an image of one of the expedition’s tethered robots that photographed the lost ships.CreditExpedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

“One is tempted,” he wrote, “to begin searching there in spite of the huge expanse of bottom that would have to be inspected.”

In 2002, Robert D. Ballard, a discoverer of the sunken Titanic, led a Black Sea expedition that found a 2,400-year-old wreck laden with the clay storage jars of antiquity. One held remnants of a large fish that had been dried and cut into steaks, a popular food in ancient Greece.

The new team said it received exploratory permits from the Bulgarian ministries of culture and foreign affairs and limited its Black Sea hunts to parts of that nation’s exclusive economic zone, which covers thousands of square miles and runs up to roughly a mile deep.

Although the team’s official name is the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project, or Black Sea MAP, it also hauls up sediments to hunt for clues to how the sea’s rising waters engulfed former land surfaces and human settlements.

Team members listed on its website include the Bulgarian National Institute of Archaeology, the Bulgarian Center for Underwater Archaeology, Sodertorn University in Sweden, and the Hellenic Center for Marine Research in Greece.

An illustration of what the research team believes the medieval ship found in the Black Sea looked like during its heyday. Credit Jon Adams/University of Southampton/Black Sea MAP

The project’s financial backer is the Expedition and Education Foundation, a charity registered in Britain whose benefactors want to remain anonymous, team members said. Dr. Adams of the University of Southampton, the team’s scientific leader, described it as catalyzing an academic-industry partnership on the largest project “of its type ever undertaken.”

Nothing is known publicly about the cost, presumably vast, of the Black Sea explorations, which are to run for three years. The endeavor began last year with a large Greek ship doing a preliminary survey. This year, the main vessel was the Stril Explorer, a British-flagged ship bearing a helicopter landing pad that usually services the undersea pipes and structures of the offshore oil industry.

Instead, archaeologists on the ship lowered its sophisticated robots to hunt for ancient shipwrecks and lost history.

In an interview, Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz of the University of Southampton said he was watching the monitors late one night in September when the undersea robot lit up a large wreck in a high state of preservation.

“I was speechless,” he recalled. “When I saw the ropes, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I still can’t.”

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  • NASA Adds to Evidence of Mysterious Ancient Earthworks NOV. 03, 2015

  • The Roanoke Island Colony: Lost, and Found?AUG. 11, 2015

Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz said the vessel hailed from the Ottoman Empire, whose capital was Constantinople (today Istanbul), and most likely went down sometime between the 17th and 19th centuries. He said the team nicknamed it “Flower of the Black Sea” because its deck bears ornate carvings, including two large posts with tops that form petals.

In an interview, Dr. Batchvarov of the University of Connecticut said most of the discoveries date to the Ottoman era. So it was that, late one night, during his shift, he assumed that a new wreck coming into view would be more of the same.

“Then I saw a quarter rudder,” he recalled, referring to a kind of large steering oar on a ship’s side. It implied the wreck was much older. Then another appeared. Quickly, he had the expedition’s leader, Dr. Adams, awakened.

“He came immediately,” Dr. Batchvarov recalled. “We looked at each other like two little boys in a candy shop.”

Dr. Batchvarov said the wreck — the medieval one found more than a half-mile down — was part of a class known by several names, including cocha and “round ship.” The latter name arose from how its ample girth let it carry more cargo and passengers than a warship.

Dr. Adams said the remarkable color images of the lost ships derived from a process known as photogrammetry. It combines photography with the careful measurement of distances between objects, letting a computer turn flat images into renderings that seem three-dimensional.

He said tethered robots shot the photographic images with video and still cameras. The distance information, he added, came from advanced sonars, which emit high-pitched sounds that echo through seawater. Their measurements, he said, can range down to less than a millimeter.

A news release from the University of Southampton refers to the images as “digital models.” Their creation, it said, “takes days even with the fastest computers.”

Filmmakers are profiling the Black Sea hunt in a documentary, according to the team’s website.

Another part of the project seeks to share the thrill of discovery with schools and educators. Students are to study on the Black Sea, the website says, or join university scientists in analyzing field samples “to uncover the mysteries of the past.”

The team has said little publicly on whether it plans to excavate the ships — a topic on which nations, academics and treasure hunters have long clashed. Bulgaria is a signatory to the 2001 United Nations convention that outlaws commercial trade in underwater cultural heritage and sets out guidelines on such things as artifact recovery and public display.

Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz said the team had so far discovered and photographed 44 shipwrecks, and that more beckoned.

Which was the most important? Dr. Adams said that for him, a student of early European shipbuilding, the centerpiece was the medieval round ship. He said it evoked Marco Polo and city states like Venice. The ship, he added, incorporated a number of innovations that let it do more than its predecessors had and paved the way for bigger things to come.

“It’s not too much,” he said, “to say that medieval Europe became modern with the help of ships like these.”