Ancient shipwrecks found in Greek waters tell tale of trade routes

FOURNI (GREECE): Archaeologists in Greece have came upon a minimum of 58 shipwrecks, many weighted down with antiquities, in what they are saying is also the most important concentration of historical wrecks ever discovered in the Aegean and perhaps the whole of the Mediterranean.

The wrecks lie in the small island archipelago of Fournoi, in the Eastern Aegean, and span a huge duration from historical Greece throughout to the 20th century. Most are dated to the Greek, Roman and Byzantine eras.

Although shipwrecks may also be seen together in the Aegean, until now this type of massive number have no longer been discovered together.

Experts say they weave a thrilling story of the way ships stuffed with cargo travelling throughout the Aegean, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea met their fate in unexpected storms and surrounded through rocky cliffs in the space.

"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 and co-director of the Fournoi survey project Dr. Peter Campbell of the RPM Nautical Foundation.

The basis is collaborating on the project with Greece's Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, which is undertaking the analysis.

When the world staff began the underwater survey in 2015, they had been astounded to seek out 22 shipwrecks that year. With their latest finds that number has climbed to 58, and the staff believe there are even more secrets mendacity on the seabed underneath.

"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," Campbell told Reuters.

The vessels and their contents paint a picture of ships carrying items on routes from the Black Sea, Greece, Asia Minor, Italy, Spain, Sicily, Cyprus, the Levant, Egypt and north Africa.

The staff has raised more than 300 antiquities from the shipwrecks, particularly amphorae, giving archaeologists rare perception into where items had been being transported across the Mediterranean.

"Ninety % of the shipwrecks that we discovered in the Fournoi archipelago carried a cargo of amphorae.

"The amphora is a vessel used principally for transporting liquids and semi-liquids in antiquity, so the goods it will be transporting had been most commonly wine, oil, fish sauces, most likely honey," archaeologist and Fournoi survey project director Dr. George Koutsouflakis from the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, said. Fish sauce from the Black Sea region in antiquity was once a dear commodity, he added.

They had been particularly concerned about amphorae they found originating from the Black Sea and north Africa in shipwrecks from the late Roman duration, as it's rare to seek out cargo from those areas intact in shipwrecks in the Aegean, said Koutsouflakis.

Bad weather is the perhaps explanation for why the ships all sank in the same space, he said. The region reviews a whole lot of unexpected, fierce squalls and is surrounded through rocky shores.

Fournoi was once a stoppover point for ships to spend the night time throughout their journey.

"Because there are narrow passages between the islands, a lot of gulfs, and descending winds from the mountains, unexpected 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," said Koutsouflakis.

In later times Fournoi was once thought to be a pirate's haven, said Campbell. Pirates had been interested in the area through the ample flow of vessels weighted down with rich cargo. Although weather was once believed to be the principle reason for the sinkings, piracy can have contributed in some instances, he said.


The situation of the shipwrecks vary. Some are well preserved, others are in pieces after the ships crashed on the rocks.


"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," said Koutsouflakis.


The survey staff came upon the shipwrecks from sightings through native sponge divers and fishermen.


Fournoi is made up of 20 small islands, islets and reefs between the bigger Ikaria, Patmos and Samos islands. The inhabitants does no longer reach more than 1,500, principally positioned on the main island of Fournoi.
Ancient shipwrecks found in Greek waters tell tale of trade routes Ancient shipwrecks found in Greek waters tell tale of trade routes Reviewed by kailash soni on October 11, 2018 Rating: 5
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