Ancient Mediterranean port 40% bigger than previously thought

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Ancient Mediterranean port 40% bigger than previously thought

The submerged remains of a major ancient fortress and port in Albania are far larger than had been previously realised.

What is described as “a significant discovery” has been made following an expedition by a UK-Albanian archaeological and environmental dive-team.

The site of Triport, first explored in the 20th and early 21st century, was previously reckoned to cover 12 acres – but the divers have uncovered eight more acres of submerged structures.

This suggested that Triport was a harbour for a large Roman settlement possibly associated with the ancient city of Aulon – today the port of Vlora. Triport would have offered a safe anchorage in both the sea and a nearby lagoon, with major Roman roads connecting it to Aulon and other cities.

The divers found evidence of Greek and Roman maritime trade from all periods between the 4th century BC and 7th century AD, including stone, lead and iron anchors, amphoras of many different styles, roof-tiles, plates and water jugs.

The expedition also assessed submerged cities and harbour structures further along the Albanian coast, at Butrint and Orikum. The sea-level must have changed considerably over time, said the researchers, who noted submergence of as much as 1.5m.

The expedition was co-directed by Peter Campbell of the University of Southampton and Neritan Ceka of the Albanian Institute of Archaeology. Fourteen researchers worked with the Albanian National Coastal Agency to assess not only Albania’s underwater cultural heritage but also the state of its coastal environment.

Restrictions on scuba diving and coastal development during the country’s long Communist period had left it with “some of the most pristine underwater cultural heritage in the Mediterranean” but the team reported that a boom in coastal tourism and unregulated development was changing this rapidly.

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