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Dive & Dig: ‘More secrets to reveal’

Dive & Dig: Lucy Blue and Stella Demesticha at Dreamer's Bay, Cyprus (Steven Lopez)
Lucy Blue and Stella Demesticha at Dreamer's Bay, Cyprus (Steven Lopez)
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Maritime archaeologist Lucy Blue talks to Divernet about the new series of the Dive & Dig podcast, in which she and historian Bettany Hughes meet the people exploring some of the world’s oldest and most intriguing dive-sites 

Recommended for all divers interested in underwater archaeology is the second series of the podcast Dive & Dig. The five episodes are presented by maritime archaeologist Dr Lucy Blue and historian, broadcaster and author Prof Bettany Hughes. 

Dedicated to underwater maritime archaeology between the Stone Age and Roman periods, the series is produced by the Honor Frost Foundation (HFF), a charity that promotes and funds maritime archaeological research, and Hughes’ production company Sandstone Global. The first two episodes are already available and the third is out tomorrow (29 October)

Hughes and Blue explore key sites in the Mediterranean and Red Sea by interviewing the archaeologists and others working there, and discussing how people of the past interacted with the sea. 

Dr Lucy Blue
Maritime archaeologist Lucy Blue
Bettany Hughes in the Bay of Baia – now she just needs that scuba qualification
Bettany Hughes – now just add scuba

Hughes was seen freediving at the sunken Italian city of Baia in a recent episode of her TV series Paris to Rome with Bettany Hughes, and Baia also features in the new podcast. She is now training as a scuba diver, in the hope of spending more time at some of those archaeological sites herself in future. 

“That would be great, and we could go dive together!” experienced diver Blue told Divernet. She and Hughes had met only when they joined forces to do the first podcast in 2021. 

How had that experience influenced the new series? “Both the HFF and Sandstone teams discussed the content from the first episode and decided that an alternative site-based approach would be good for the second series, focusing on the ancient world,” said Blue. “We think – or hope – that this has worked well.”

Surveying at Wadi el Jarf on Dive & Dig
Surveying at Wadi el Jarf (Central Department of Underwater Antiquities)

Dive & Dig episodes

Episode 1, Builders Of The Pyramids, visits the site of the world’s oldest-known artificial sea harbour at Wadi El Jarf on Egypt’s Gulf of Suez, where 30 caves house discoveries including well-preserved wooden boats, rigging, some 100 inscribed anchors and the world’s oldest-known papyri – relating to the building of the Great Pyramids. 

Ep 2: Takeaway Choices of the Ancient Greeks – Shipwrecks takes us to Cyprus and two 4th-century BC wreck sites at Mazotos and Kyrenia, complete with hundreds of wine amphoras, olive stones and timber hull remains.

Reconstructing the Kyrenia wreck
Replica of the Kyrenia wreck (Glafkos Kyrenia Liberty Photographs)

Ep 3: Sunken Sin City – Baia, Italy (29 October) takes in the underwater views the Bay of Naples, where ancient Rome’s “Las Vegas” is now an archaeological marine park with statues, villas and mosaics for divers and snorkellers to explore (see also On The Cilento Coast on Divernet).

Baia (Michele Stefanile)
Aerial view of Baia (Michele Stefanile)
Diver at the Baia Roman site
Diver with mosaic at the Baia Roman site (Ministry of Culture)

Ep 4: Istanbul’s Harbour of Life (5 November) reflects one of the world’s biggest digs at Yenikapi in Turkey, covering more than 58,000sq m of a 4th-century artificial harbour that includes at least 37 well-preserved Byzantine shipwrecks above a Neolithic village. Finds have ranged from camel skeletons to cherries – and a leaf that was still green after 1,100 years!

Ep 5: 8,000 Years Under the Sea (12 November) refers to a submerged Neolithic site at Agios Petros in Greece complete with rock art, tuna bones and fish-hooks – but were the people deep-sea fishers or farmers?

Divers at Agios Petros (Agios Petros Project)
Divers at Agios Petros (Agios Petros Project)

“I really enjoyed interviewing Glafkos Cariolou and getting an insight into his long and quite personal journey with the Kyrenia shipwreck,” said Blue of the skipper and reconstructor of the replica boat, when asked for her highlights of the series.

“In the Ayia Napa Museum last week I watched footage from the original excavations, and it was amazing to see the team at work all those decades ago – a real dig into history, not only of the shipwreck but also of approaches to maritime archaeology.

“I also love the site of Wadi el Jarf. Having worked on the Red Sea coast of Egypt for many years and not knowing this incredible site even existed, it’s amazing to think that it has provided so much detailed insight into ancient seafaring and trade, even down to the anchors being associated with particular crews, over 4,500 years ago.

“I thought Michael Jones’ description of Yenikapi was gripping, too – and I loved to hear Stella Demesticha’s description of the first time she saw the Mazotos shipwreck… really evocative.”

Bettany Hughes with Yenakapi finds (Sandstone Global)
Bettany Hughes in the Yenikapi conservation lab (Sandstone Global)

Scuba challenges

Which site is the most challenging from the scuba-diving point of view? “Mazotos, as it is so deep (around 45m), but also Wadi el Jarf – for the opposite reason. The site is so shallow, which makes working and documenting, especially doing photography, very challenging.

“Also, I guess, with my cheeky hat on, Yenikapi, as you would be diving in silt. The site is not under water, so scuba is not required!”

Amphora at the 45m-deep Mazotos site (MARELab)
Amphoras at the 45m-deep Mazotos site (MARELab)

Which excavation now tops the wish-list for future series of Dive & Dig? “We considered looking into the more recent periods, that is, mediaeval to modern, but in terms of sites that hold potential, Agio Petros has to be followed,” said Blue. 

“It is so early, and with the research they have started into DNA, I truly believe it has many more secrets to reveal.” Dive & Dig is available on all major podcast platforms and direct from the HFF (follow on Twitter or Instagram).

Also on Divernet: Wanted: Underwater Archaeology Volunteers, Who Disturbed Ancient Med Amphora Site?, Body Found On Wreck – Head Found 120 Years Later?

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