Last dives on 10 shipwrecks spanning 5,000 years

Archaeological divers survey pottery on one of 10 shipwreck sites off Kasos (Ministry of Culture)
Archaeological divers survey pottery on one of 10 shipwreck sites off Kasos (Ministry of Culture)

Underwater archaeological research in the eastern Aegean Sea around the island of Kasos, which lies between Crete and Rhodes, has revealed 10 shipwrecks reflecting five millennia of history, Greece’s Ministry of Culture has announced.

Annual surveys of the area that began in 2019 were completed last October by a National Hellenic Research Foundation team working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, combining the archaeological evidence produced by the divers with that from Greek history – including events recounted in tales such as Homer’s Iliad from 800BC.

Surveying a wreck site (Ministry of Culture)
Surveying a wreck site (Ministry of Culture)
Photographing amphoras (Ministry of Culture)
Photographing amphoras (Ministry of Culture)

The wrecks were discovered, along with what were described as significant individual finds, in depths ranging from 20 to 47m.

They spanned eras from prehistory (3000 BC ) through the Classical (460 BC), Greek (100 BC – 100 AD), Roman (200 BC – 300AD), and Byzantine periods (800 – 900AD), finds from the late mediaeval and Ottoman periods and also a 25-30m timber and metal wreck, possibly from around the time of World War Two.

The ancient ships had been carrying cargos from what is now Spain, Italy, Africa and Anatolia (Asian Turkiye), and their remains were found along with personal possessions of the crews.

Marking the site (Ministry of Culture)
Marking the site (Ministry of Culture)
Cleaning an artefact (Ministry of Culture)
Cleaning an artefact (Ministry of Culture)

Notable recent wreck-site discoveries included a Spanish Dressel 20-type amphora with a seal on its handle dating between 150-170 AD, drinking vessels, terra sigillata-type clay flasks of African origin dating to the Roman period and an ancient stone anchor.

The Kasos-Karpathos reef and Karpatholimnion area were mapped for the first time, using lateral sound scanning. The researchers also took more than 20,000 underwater photographs to recreate the finds digitally, enabling detailed analysis to be carried out topside by experts in various fields.

Divers with an anchor (Ministry of Culture)
Divers with an anchor (Ministry of Culture)

A report on the excavations, including assessments by historians, archaeologists, conservators and other scientists, is be published at the end of 2024 by the National Hellenic Research Foundation.

The archaeologists will now move on to concentrate on the seas around Karpathos, which lies across a strait to the east of Kasos, from this June.

WRECKS4ALL set to expand

Analysing 3D wreck data
Analysing 3D wreck data (LabMA)

The University of Montenegro’s Laboratory of Maritime Archaeology (LabMA) says it is set to expand its WRECKS4ALL concept further around the southern Adriatic region. 

The project involves making the area’s underwater cultural heritage accessible to divers and non-divers alike through digitisation and virtual reality freely available through the WRECKS4ALL mobile app, alongside the promotion of scuba tourism. 

LabMA says that the first phase of the project has been recognised as one of the most successful to be co-financed by the EU, following its work to date in the coastal regions of Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Now the £160,000 one-year WRECKS4ALL 2.0 project will go ahead in the form of a series of conferences and underwater archaeology courses, as well as further underwater heritage digitisation. It will concentrate on Montenegro along with parts of Italy and Albania, funded by the municipalities of Vlora (Albania) and Kampomarino and Italy’s University of Salento. 

The WRECKS4ALL app can be downloaded free via Google Play or Apple Store.

Also on Divernet: Divers find ancient wrecks off Kasos, More diver discoveries in Greece, Calmed nerves unlock ancient Greek dive-sites, Free app samples Adriatic wreck dives

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