Archaeologists have discovered a treasure trove of ancient and medieval Greek shipwrecks that total 58 in number, of which all are concentrated in one area of the Aegean Sea around the Fournoi archipelago.
As Reuters reports, underwater archaeologists who found the shipwrecks were astonished at their discovery — and believe that these ships may be the largest number to have ever been found in the entirety of the Mediterranean. The remains of the seafaring vessels span an immense period of time, and have been dated to the ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine eras.
Of finding such a great concentration of ships all in one place, Fournoi survey project co-director Dr. Peter Campbell explained, “The excitement is difficult to describe, I mean, it was just incredible. We knew that we had stumbled upon something that was going to change the history books. I would call it, probably, one of the top archaeological discoveries of the century in that we now have a new story to tell of a navigational route that connected the ancient Mediterranean.”
Those investigating the ancient shipwrecks note that the wrecks reveal much about the treacherous routes taken through the Mediterranean, the Aegean, and the Black Seas. These waterways were prone to squalls that would suddenly occur, tossing ships straight into the rocky cliffs that surrounded them. And as Dr. George Koutsouflakis from the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities noted, it was mainly these tempests that stopped the ships in their tracks — especially if the captains weren’t particularly knowledge about the route.
“Because there are narrow passages between the islands, a lot of gulfs, and descending winds from the mountains, sudden windstorms are created. It is not a coincidence that a large number of the wrecks have been found in those passages. If there is a sudden change in the wind’s direction, and if the captain was from another area and was not familiar with the peculiarities of the local climate, he could easily end up losing control of the ship and falling upon the rocks.”
“The excitement is difficult to describe, I mean, it was just incredible. We knew that we had stumbled upon something that was going to change the history books,” said underwater archaeologist Dr Peter Campbell of the RPM Nautical Foundation.https://t.co/EFzIJmvMs1
— Nigel J.Hetherington (@Pastpreservers) October 11, 2018
When the international team of archaeologists first began their journey here with an underwater survey that began in 2015, they discovered 22 shipwrecks in the Aegean Sea in just that year alone. That number has now reached 58, and there seems to be no end in sight.
These ships would have been traversing many miles through Greece, Asia Minor, Italy, Cyprus, Spain, Egypt, the Levant, North Africa, and Sicily — and so far more than 300 ancient relics have been found in and around these ships. 90 percent of the relics were amphorae, according to Dr. Koutsouflakis.
“The amphora is a vessel used mainly for transporting liquids and semi-liquids in antiquity, so the goods it would be transporting were mostly wine, oil, fish sauces, perhaps honey.”
Particularly exciting is the fact that many of these ancient shipwrecks have remained entirely untouched up until now, as Dr. Koutsouflakis explained.
“We have wrecks that are completely virgin. We feel we were the first ones to find them, but they are in very deep waters – at a depth of 60 meters. Usually from 40 meters and below we have wrecks in good condition. Anything above 40 meters has either lost its consistency or has been badly looted in the past.”
With so many ancient shipwrecks still to be studied in the Aegean, underwater archaeologists, divers, conservators and architects are hoping to open up a center in Fournoi so that prospective students can learn more about detecting these vessels. A museum to store all of the relics discovered is also in the works.