Preserving the past, protecting the future

Conserving Fournoi Underwater Cultural Heritage

Beneath the tranquil, yet dangerous waters of the archipelago of Fournoi lie remnants of a rich and diverse past – archaeological material and artifacts that whisper tales of civilizations long gone. 

These submerged treasures, often shrouded in mystery and preserved in an aquatic environment, present a unique challenge for conservationists seeking to preserve their fragile beauty and unlock their historical significance.

The head conservator cleans an amphora

The conservation of underwater antiquities is a delicate and meticulous process that requires a deep understanding of the materials used, the environment they have endured, and the potential threats they may face. Unlike terrestrial artifacts, underwater treasures are subjected to a complex interplay of factors, including water pressure, temperature fluctuations, salinity, and the presence of marine organisms.

Conservators employ various techniques to address these challenges, from stabilizing fragile materials to removing marine growth and preserving delicate details. They use specialized equipment, such as underwater lifting bags and transport containers, to minimize further damage during retrieval and transportation.

Once ashore, the conservation process intensifies. Artifacts may undergo thorough cleaning, desalination, and stabilization, followed by specialized treatments tailored to their specific needs.

Before CleaningAfter Cleaning

An early medieval amphora, 9-11th century A.D., before and after cleaning

The conservation of Fournoi’s underwater antiquities is not merely about preserving physical objects; it is about safeguarding a link to our past, fostering a deeper understanding of human history, and inspiring future generations. By carefully preserving these submerged treasures, we illuminate the stories they hold, ensuring that their voices continue to resonate from the depths of time.

Scientific Publications

Korseai’s Collection of Scientific Publications in Conservation

During the 2017 Fournoi Underwater Survey, a cluster of oil lamps dating to the 2-3rd century A.D. was located near shipwreck 28. Τwο samples were lifted that year, yet the information collected from the in situ observation and the samples themselves was insufficient. The following year, the recovery of the entire assemblage was decided.

Condition reports of underwater finds should ideally include information from the very moment they are located on the seabed. In most cases, such information is nonexistent or mentioned separately in different field reports.

In the Mediterranean Sea, the most common archaeological finds are amphorae. During an underwater archaeological survey, conservators- divers are often required to detach and lift cracked amphorae and other pottery found loose on a sandy seabed or concreted in a rocky substrate.

The digitization of underwater cultural heritage from the conservation point of view

Until recently, visiting ancient shipwrecks in Greece, a breathtaking experience in itself, was not possible for the general public due to concerns about their protection and preservation. Over the last few years, the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities (EUA) has chosen shipwrecks from the islands of Alonissos, Fournoi, Leros and from the western Pagasetic Gulf and is carrying out preliminary work with the aim to make them accessible to recreational divers.

Different approaches for the protection and promotion of ancient and WWII, Accessible Underwater Cultural Heritage Sites (AUCHS). The cases of Fournoi and Leros wreck sites under the ongoing INTERREG V-Greece- Cyprus 2014-2020 project “An.Di.Ka.T.”

The Archipelago of Fournoi

Dive into the depths of the past and explore the rich maritime history that Fournoi holds