Fournoi Underwater Archaeological Research Project (2022): Continuing The Fieldwork on Shipwreck No15 and Training the Next Generation of Underwater Archaeologists

In 2022, the Fournoi underwater archaeological research underwent substantial structural modifications. The Department of History, Archaeology, and Social Anthropology at the University of Thessaly incorporated the Fournoi project into its research agenda. Concurrently, a new Ministerial Decision was promulgated, spanning the triennium 2022-2024, amplifying the collaboration between the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and the University of Thessaly.

With the University of Thessaly now a recognized scientific collaborator, the Fournoi Project has taken on a significant educational role. It serves as a platform for students, offering them a unique opportunity to develop diving skills and technical expertise in underwater archaeology, thereby fostering the growth of the next generation of archaeologists.

Fieldwork Highlights

The fieldwork, which took place over 26 days in September 2022, was a challenging endeavor. It focused on the excavation of Wreck No. 15, a site from the early Byzantine era (5th-6th century AD), located at Cape Aspros Kavos. This site, situated within one of Fournoi’s most inaccessible regions, presented divers with depths ranging from 43 to 49 meters, adding to the complexity and importance of the project.

Preliminary exploratory endeavours in 2021, which involved opening trial trenches on the wreck’s shallower northwest flank, significantly informed the research priorities for 2022. During the 2021 excavation, it was ascertained that the pronounced incline of the seabed (approximately 40-45 degrees) precipitated the migration of loose sediments from the superincumbent sand layers on the wreck’s western side toward the excavation site. Consequently, the excavation at this location became unfeasible without the complete removal of the sand deposit overhanging the wreck’s west, extending from depths of 34 to 40 meters.

Overcoming Excavation Challenges

Two underwater airlifts were deployed to address the sand removal issue. The first air-lift operated exclusively on archaeological strata at depths of 40-42 meters. In contrast, the second was tasked with relocating sand in the 38-meter zone, where the slope directed it towards the wreck site.

More Exciting Discoveries

These operations yielded the discovery of seven intact amphorae and a plethora of intact and fragmented bowls adorned with characteristic decorations of the Phocean Ware C type. A notable find was the recovery of an intact amphora of Late Roman 1 type, positioned on the western side of the shipwreck amidst amphorae originating from Sinope. This discovery expanded the roster of identified amphora types within the wreck to nine, corroborating a re-dating of the entire cargo to post-mid-5th century AD.

Investing in the Future

A salient aspect of the research was the hands-on field training imparted to three undergraduate and postgraduate students from the University of Thessaly, namely Irini Kapoyiannis, Aspa Kostageorgou, and Christos Charalambidis. These students had the opportunity to dive at varying depths among numerous ancient shipwrecks, thereby accruing invaluable experience pivotal for their professional development.

Project Leadership

George Koutsouflakis, an Assistant Professor of Maritime Archaeology at the University of Thessaly, steered the project’s overarching direction in collaboration with Dionysios Evangelistis, an archaeologist from the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities. The research team comprised 30 divers specializing in diverse fields, including archaeology, architecture, antiquities conservation, professional diving, and photography.

Research Team and Acknowledgements

The success of the project was made possible by the generous support of various entities:

and corporate sponsors, including:

All sponsors and various entities provided crucial financial, logistical, and human resource support.

Special thanks are extended to the Mayor of Fournoi Korseon, Dimitrios Karydis, for his unwavering support, which was instrumental in the project’s execution.

Korseai Institute of Historical & Archaeological Research

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