From Roman Cargo Ships to 20th Century Wrecks: Fournoi Expedition 2017 Unveils A Rich Maritime History

The third season of the underwater archaeological survey of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, which took place in the archipelagos of Fournoi from the 9th to the 29th of June, was completed in cooperation with the R.P.M. Nautical Foundation. This research aims to locate, record, document and study ancient, medieval and modern shipwrecks in the island complex of Fournoi.

Carrying the Explorers Club Flag: A Sign of Significance

The 2017 Fournoi Expedition carried the Explorers Club flag #211. The award of the flag is a significant accomplishment. Since 1918, the flag has been carried to all Earth’s continents, under the sea and into the stars. To date, 850 explorers have carried the flag on over 1450 expeditions.

Advanced Technology for Deep Sea Exploration

The survey was supported by the research vessel of the R.P.M. Nautical Foundation “R/V Hercules,” which was used for the archaeological mapping of the sea area between the eastern coast of Fournoi and Agios Minas, in-depth zones that are not accessible by conventional diving means, from 60 to 120 meters deep. For the location of possible targets, a Multibeam Echo Sounder was used, and for the optical confirmation and identification of these targets, an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (R.O.V.)

Surveying the Seabed: From Classical Times to the 20th Century

Traces of eight shipwrecks that date from the Classic period up to the first half of the 20th century were located and documented. The total number of identified and documented shipwrecks, together with the already investigated ones that were recorded in 2015 and 2016, now rises to 53. Apart from the shipwrecks, individual finds were also recorded; mainly ceramic discharges and anchors. These findings provide unquestionable evidence of the intensity and extent of the navigation and merchant trade in this crucial nautical crossroad of the eastern Aegean.

A Wealth of Discoveries: Shipwrecks and Individual Finds

The most significant finds of the 2017 research include a shipwreck with a cargo of Chian amphorae, dated to the 4th century B.C., a Roman shipwreck with a cargo of Dressel 38 amphorae, which originated from workshops in Spain and were destined for the transportation of salted fish, two late roman shipwrecks with cargoes of 6th and 7th century A.D. amphorae, but also a wooden keel from the interwar period, that sunk just after 1929. Amphorae, ceramic tableware, and oil lamps were retrieved as samples from these shipwrecks. The extensive diversity of the cargoes and the finding of many shipwrecks with foreign cargoes from outside the Aegean seem to confirm the results of the 2015 and 2016 surveys that Fournoi were, due to their geographical position and diversity of the horizontal and vertical partition of their coasts, a crucial maritime junction that is connected to a broader network of sea routes in antiquity.

Collaboration is Key: Local Knowledge and Institutional Support

As in the previous years, significant to the surveys’ successful outcome was the awareness of the local population and the collection of information from the fishermen about the existence of antiquities on the seabed, which led to their immediate location. Also of great importance was the contribution of Fournoi – Korseai Municipality, mayor G. Marousis, who facilitated the work of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities with constant provision of services.

The survey was directed by the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities archaeologist Dr. George Koutsouflakis and the head of the R.P.M. Nautical Foundation, archaeologist Dr. Peter Campbell.

Surveying Halfway: Unveiling the Maritime Past

It is calculated that the surveyed area corresponds to about 50% of the total coastline surrounding the island complex of Fournoi. The survey’s continuation in the following years will allow for an understanding of maritime space use and the thorough study of navigation and merchant trade in the area.

Future Focus: Excavation and a Deeper Understanding

It is estimated that the surface research for the location of shipwrecks will be completed in 2018. Furthermore, considering the total facts of the identified shipwrecks, the research will focus on excavating the more historically significant shipwrecks.

Korseai Institute of Historical & Archaeological Research

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