The emergence of Ηistory…
Since ancient times the inhabitants of this land have depended on the sea for transportation, communications, and commerce. Not surprisingly, for centuries, sea transport was considered to be easier, faster, and safer than land travel.
Having said this, sea travel was always a dangerous undertaking. Shipwrecks were a constant fear for sailors and their families, especially since seas were uncharted, weather forecasts were not accurate and voyages lasted for months.
The findings of these shipwrecks give archaeologists today new and invaluable insight into ancient Greek technology and throw unique light on questions involving the history of art, maritime commerce, shipbuilding and the trade in artistic products.
Arguably, the most famous ancient shipwreck in Greece is the one at Antikythera, which inaugurated underwater archaeology because of renewed research initiated in the area by the Underwater Antiquities Ephorate with the support of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Sponge fishermen from Symi found the Antikythera shipwreck in 1900 while in 1976 a research team under Jacques Yves Cousteau brought to light incredible findings like the sculptures of the “Philosopher's Head,” and the “Antikythera Youth,” and of course the famous “Antikythera Mechanism,” among them.
A second important mission of the Underwater Antiquities Ephorate took place in the eastern Argolic Gulf near the ‘Frachthi’ Cave. Traces of obsidian (a naturally occurring volcanic glass) have been found which demonstrate the existence of navigation in the Aegean from prehistoric times and the 5th century BC, as obsidian is only found on the island of Milos. The results of this mission yielded information on sea levels and the mapping of the area in prehistoric times. Furthermore, the data found at depths of 10-12 meters, will be applied in the excavation to locate the neolithic settlement that was near ‘Frachthi’ Cave.
The ancient port of Lechaion, situated on the coast of the Gulf of Corinth, west of Corinth is also of interest. This port was the city's greatest commercial entry point during periods of prosperity. In the period 2013-2014 the Lechaion Port project revealed and registered the submerged portions of the port : the entrance routes and the docks. At the same time the use of pioneering technology and collaboration with the University of Patra may lead to the discovery of ancient artifacts and more port installations.
Research and excavations by the Underwater Antiquities Ephorate are not limited to just these missions. Archaeological material dating back to the prehistoric era through to modern times will be exhibited at the new Museum of Underwater Antiquities in the port of Piraeus. Its collection will continue to be enriched constantly, since remnants of shipwrecks and civilisations are an undepletable treasure waiting to emerge and take their place in Ηistory…