( AP )- Marine archaeologists will begin work in June to uncover the sand-buried hull of a 2,300-year-old ship thought to have been ferrying wine when it sank off the coast of Cyprus, researchers said Thursday.
The ship, dating from the fourth century B.C., is one of only a few to have been found so well-preserved, and it may shed light on the nautical and economic history of the period in the east Mediterranean, said Stella Demesticha , a University of Cyprus visiting marine archaeologist.
Underwater photographs from initial surveying dives in November show dozens of amphorae - large terra-cotta vases used in antiquity to transport liquids and solid foodstuffs - lying on the seabed in the shape of the ship.
The ship was sought to have been transporting wine from the Greek island of Chios when it sank. The amphorae closely resemble others found to contain Chios wine, but may have been used to transport other goods in ancient sea trade.
Demesticha said researchers believe the vessel's wooden hull may be preserved under tons of sand. Archaeologists have not released the pictures, as research is still at a preliminary stage.
Demesticha said the wreck, which rests on the seabed 144 feet below the sea surface, is also unique because it lies at a depth that divers can easily reach, unlike similar discoveries made in deeper waters.
The ship appears to be a contemporary of the Kyrenia ship, a 50-foot merchant vessel that another Greek Cypriot diver accidentally discovered off the island's northern coast more than four decades ago.
The discovery could provide further clues into Cyprus' role in maritime trade, said archaeologist Jonathan Adams, who is not involved in the project.
"This could provide a more detailed picture of trade at the time that could not be pieced together from amphorae found on land," said Adams, a senior lecturer at the University of Southampton's Center for Maritime Archaeology.
Cypriot research divers will start the next surveying phase at the site about 1.5 miles off the southern coastal village of Mazotos in early June, followed by another in October, Demesticha said.
The project is being undertaken by the University of Cyprus' Archaeology Research Unit and is funded by the Thetis Foundation, a private institution that protects underwater cultural heritage.