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‘Mentor’ yields more treasures 214 years on

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archive – Diving News’Mentor’ yields more treasures 214 years on

Ancient treasures and 19th-century artefacts have been found in the wreck of the Mentor, the frigate that was transporting the controversial Elgin Marbles and other items from Piraeus to England when she sank off the Greek island of Kythera in 1802.

Much of the ship’s cargo has been looted in the years since the sinking. The marbles, parts of a frieze removed from the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin and now mostly in the British Museum, were salvaged for him by Greek sponge-divers, along with other treasures.

But now an international team of marine archaeologists working for the Greek Culture Ministry’s Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities has located an overlooked treasure trove.

The divers carried out further excavation of what remains of the hull and prow of the Mentor following the depredations and damage caused by treasure-hunters over the years.

Among new finds, reported in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, were parts of an Egyptian statue, ancient coins from the archaic to the Roman period, amphoras with stamped handles from Rhodes, and  fish and plant fossils.

The team also found personal effects of the Mentor’s passengers and crew, including navigation equipment, watches, glassware and porcelain, pistols and ammunition, and a cannonball.

The frigate’s Captain William Eglen had argued that his ship was being dangerously overburdened while it was being loaded in Piraeus, but his objections were over-ruled by Elgin’s staff. When Eglen realised that the ship was taking on water, he tried to reach safety in Kythera, but was unable to anchor in rising seas.

The Mentor swung onto rocks and sank in 23m. All the passengers and crew were rescued.

Next year the archaeologists hope to uncover more antiquities from the bow of the Mentor and buried in the seabed.

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12-Nov-16

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