Fournoi Shipwreck Survey: Unveiling the Aegean’s Hidden History

An underwater survey conducted between September 14th and 29th, 2015, in the Aegean Sea near the Fournoi islands uncovered a remarkable 22 shipwrecks previously unknown to archaeologists. The expedition, a collaboration between the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and the RPM Nautical Foundation, explored pre-determined zones and locations based on historical shipwreck reports and local knowledge.

This successful survey documented vessels dating from the Archaic period (around the 8th century BC) to the 19th century AD, providing valuable insights into maritime trade and activity in the Aegean region.

Research Period and Focus Areas

The initial research phase for the Fournoi shipwreck survey took place between September 14th and 29th, 2015. The expedition concentrated its efforts on three pre-approved maritime zones:

  • The sea channel separates the Fournoi and Thymena islands, including the Kisiria islet.
  • The southern coastline of Fournoi island, stretching from Platikavos Cape to Kourniachto islet, encompasses the islets of Plaka, Stroggilo, Makronisi, Prasonisi, Small and Large Anthropofagos.
  • Ag. Minas Island and the channel between Ag. Minas and Fournoi.

In addition to these designated survey areas, selective dives were conducted at locations identified through various sources:

  • Historical shipwreck reports from private individuals are documented in the Hellenic Ministry of Culture archives.
  • New information was provided by local residents and sponge divers familiar with the region.

Survey Objectives

The primary goals of the underwater survey were:

  • To locate, record, photograph, and film ancient, medieval, and modern shipwrecks.
  • To document and photograph isolated artifacts relevant to historical navigation, such as ceramic shards and anchors.
  • To selectively salvage artifacts for sample analysis.

Unveiling a Wealth of Shipwrecks

Through systematically exploring the chosen areas and incorporating all available information, the team successfully documented a remarkable 22 shipwrecks. These previously unknown vessels dated from the Archaic period (around the 8th century BC) to the 19th century AD.

Research Team and Acknowledgements

The success of the expedition relied heavily on the contributions of numerous individuals and organizations:

  • Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities: George Koutsouflakis (General Director), Angelos Tsompanidis (Diver & Conservator), Louis Mercenier (Diver/Technician).
  • RPM Nautical Foundation: Peter Campbell (Archaeologist Diver), C. Hutchins, John Stella (Equipment Manager).
  • External Collaborators: Markos Garras (Support Vessel Captain & Navigator), Vasilis Mentogiannis & Anastasis Agathos (Underwater Photographers/Filmmakers), Manos Mytikas (Municipal Diver/Mechanic).
  • Sponsors: Honor Frost Foundation, Fournoi Municipality (Mayor John Marousis), C. Tsounis (Carrefour Ikaria owner).

The Fournoi Municipality provided invaluable assistance through complimentary lodging, transportation, utilities, and personnel support. Additionally, local residents and sponge divers offered crucial knowledge that aided in locating shipwrecks and pottery deposits.

Management of Recovered Artifacts

After retrieval, the artifacts received initial conservation treatment from conservator Angelos Tsompanidis. This included temporary immersion in tanks, mechanical cleaning to remove sediment buildup, and proper packaging for transportation. Finally, the recovered finds were transferred to the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities in Athens for further analysis and preservation.

Korseai Institute of Historical & Archaeological Research

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