The Bronze Age vessel - among the half-dozen oldest surviving ships in the world - appears to have sunk in an estuary which once occupied the site of what is now Dover.
The ship, believed to have been 50 feet (15m) long, is made of dozens of wooden planks sewn together with rope made of beaten yew bark.
Only a 12ft-long cross section of the 10ft-wide vessel has been exposed so far and will be lifted within the next 24 hours. The remaining 40ft of the ship will be left in situ, still buried, for archaeologists to investigate in decades to come.
An archaeological team from Canterbury Archaeological Trust discovered the ship on Monday, while excavating 23ft below the present ground surface.
The vessel, preserved in perfect condition, was lying upright on what used to be the bottom of the estuary of the River Dour.
It is likely that the ship - which is the length of two London buses - would have carried up to five tons of cargo and was powered by up to 24 oarsmen. It was probably used as a cross- Channel trading vessel.
The ship is one of the finest prehistoric craft found in Europe. Only a 9,300-year-old dugout canoe discovered at Assen in the Netherlands, and a 4,800-year-old ancient Egyptian royal ship found near the pyramids at Giza, are older and as well preserved. The Dover discovery was made during archaeological work carried out on behalf of the Department of Transport and funded by English Heritage in conjunction with roadworks on the A20.
Archaeologists from the National Maritime Museum and the British Museum are being called in to examine the vessel. It was found beneath the remains of a Roman wharf and the medieval town wall.
The discovery adds to evidence suggesting that even 3,000 years ago Dover was an important port.Reuse content