Wednesday 27 October 2004

Elpida Hadjidaki
Ministry of Culture, Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities

A Minoan shipwreck

During archaeological underwater and geophysical surveys in East Crete in September of 2003 and June of 2004, the scattered cargo of an ancient shipwreck was discovered. It dates to the Middle Minoan II period, (1900-1700 B.C.), marking a milestone in the history of ancient seafaring.
The ship was lost 4000 years ago off the islet of Pseira in the Bay of Mirambelou, Lasithi Province, Crete, at a depth of around 50 meters, and has great significance for the study of prehistoric seafaring. Thucydides, in his History of the Peloponnesian War, refers to the legendary King Minos as the first ruler of the seas, someone who created a great kingdom in the Mediterranean, rid the seas of pirates, and protected sea routes and trade.
Evidence to date for this Pax Minoica is found especially in iconography, such as depictions in seals, on vessels, on wall paintings, and in jewellery. Despite the fact that, through the centuries, thousands of ships have sunk in the Aegean, Cretan, and Libyan Seas, locating even a single Minoan ship remained no more than a dream for researchers in archaeology and ship construction.
Therefore, the discovery of a scattered cargo of a ship located in the channel off Pseira, the great depth of the sea at that point, and the exceptionally good condition of the pottery that was located despite remaining for thousands of years underwater, gives hope that some part of the ship itself may remain.
It should be emphasized that this is the first time that any Minoan cargo has been located underwater, and that it dates to a time when merchant trade of Minoan Crete was just beginning to blossom.
Among the surface finds from the Minoan shipwreck are included transport vessels of impressive size, including intact amphorae, spouted jars, storage jars, lekanes, and more. These vessels are now undergoing conservation in the Museum of Sitia.
The next goals of the research will be underwater excavation, and investigation beneath the sea floor with sub-bottom profiling. This work is scheduled for Spring 2005, with the specific aim of locating parts of the wooden frame of the ship, if it has survived.
The research team was directed by Dr. Elpida Hadjidaki, underwater archaeologist with the Department of Underwater Archaeology of the Greek Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with scientists of various specialties, deep sea divers and photographers. Geophysical research was led by Professor George Anastasakis and a team from the Department of Geology of the University of Athens. The geophysical investigations employed Side Scan Sonar (Multi Sea Beam). An ROV was used in 2004 by Mr. M. Pittas.


Next Seminar

Friday 12 May 18.30

M. Marthari
Raos on Thera...