During the 2017 Fournoi Underwater Survey, a cluster of oil lamps dating to the 2-3rd century A.D. was located near shipwreck 28. Τννο samples were lifted that year, yet the information collected from the in-situ observation and the samples themselves was not sufficient. The following year, the recovery of the entire assemblage was decided.

Contributing factors behind the decision of recovering the cluster of oil lamps as a whole

  • They were heavily encrusted with biological and geological deposits forming a small natural reef.
  • Detaching them individually would jeopardize their state of preservation and potentially cause further damage due to their unorderly distribution on the rock.
  • Το minimize the mechanical stress inflicted upon the objects caused by the tools used.
  • The encrustations surrounding them acted protectively for the oil lamps, by keeping them enclosed and immobile.
  • Although the cluster was in a relatively shallow depth, working underwater would require a considerable amount of time and possibly multiple dives; which in a survey is not always an option.
  • On land, the cluster could be worked on with other, more precise tools, which cannot be used underwater.

Detachment and Recovery

During the preliminary documentation, thirteen visible oil lamps were counted, two of which were located at a distance from the main concentration. The team of diving conservators photographed and documented them underwater. Their preservation state varied; some were intact, and others were broken or cracked. In every case, the width of the ceramic walls was extremely thin, around 2 mm.

Since the cluster had a ‘weak’ point, at approximately ¾ of its total length, detachment was achieved by initially dividing it into two parts for static reasons and to prevent potential collapsing while lifting. Around the cluster, a ditch was created with a hammer and sizzle at a safe distance from the furthest visible lamp. Afterwards, it was carefully detached from the deepest to the shallowest part.
Το make lifting possible and an elastic bandage was placed around it to prevent an uncontrolled collapse of the cluster. It was then placed in a plastic crate and lifted with the help of a lift bag.

ln the Temporary Lab

Difficulties regarding the separation of the individual oil lamps:

  • There was no estimation of the number of oil lamps inside the cluster
  • The lamps had very thin ceramic walls (around 1-2 mm), and the encrustations were dense
  • The state of preservation varied
  • The encrustations were of similar colour to the pottery’s clay.

The oil lamps were numbered, photographed and documented again while still in the cluster. Afterwards, the external looser layers of biological organisms were removed using water and brushes. Βγ doing this, a clearer image of the objects contained was achieved. The detachment of each oil lamp was possible using micromotors and pneumatic tools since the pressure applied is adjustable. The use of hammers and sizzles was avoided to minimize the vibrations.

After the dismantling was completed, the material collected was investigated to identify associated shards. Twenty oil lamps, seven bricks, one glass vessel, and one ceramic handle were obtained in total. Eighteen oil lamp shards have yet to be identified.

The oil lamps were once again photographed and documented individually. They were then cleaned from the encrustations in order of priority, considering their state of preservation, durability, and potential archeological information they could provide. Τwο of them were deemed too fragile to work on while in the field. After the end of the survey, the finds were placed in desalination tanks.


The conservator divers’ knowledge and experience enabled the objects to be detached as a cluster. The objects could be safely separated from the cluster in laboratory settings as opposed to in situ, where the application of additional mechanical stress would be inevitable. This procedure allowed for the preservation of invaluable archeological information such as decorative details with depictions of gods (e.g. Artemis, Hercules or Hephaestus), warriors or floral motives and even the ceramist’s signature, such as ‘Όctavios” and “Loukios”.

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