Unveiling Byzantine Secrets: University of Thessaly and Ephorate of Marine Antiquities Conclude Eighth Research Season in Fournoi Archipelago (2023)

In September 2023, the eighth research period of the Marine Archaeological Research in the Fournoi Archipelago, conducted by the University of Thessaly and the Ephorate of Marine Antiquities of the YPPO, was completed. The research focused on the excavation of a shipwreck from the early Byzantine period (5th – 6th century A.D.) that has been located at Cape Aspros Kavos, in one of the hard-to-reach areas of Fournoi, on a steeply sloping, sandy bottom and at a depth of 43- 49 meters.
The systematic exploration of these areas and the use of every kind of information led to the recording and documenting of a total of 22 shipwrecks – unknown to the Archeological Service until today – from the Archaic period to the 19th century A.D.

The Early Byzantine Shipwreck: A Treasure Trove

This wreck has been systematically excavated since 2021 and has been selected for intensive investigation due to its extremely interesting heterogeneous cargo. So far, eight different types of amphorae have been recorded, originating from the Crimea, Sinope and Heraklion of the Pontus, in the Black Sea, as well as from the Aegean and an additional load of tableware, from the region of Phocaea in Asia Minor.

2023 Survey Highlights

The 2023 survey focused on the regional cleaning of the western, shallower side of the wreck from sand deposits to address the phenomenon of landslides in the wreck site due to the strong slope of the seabed. During the search, which faced multiple difficulties due to adverse weather conditions, 170 group dives were carried out in the first fortnight of September, and approximately 15 cubic meters of embankment were removed, revealing an extensive spread of cargo on the shallow side of the wreck, mainly from arrays of panels. The scattering of the finds on the seabed indicates a partial loss of cargo before the ship sank and ended up in the final deposition location in the 40-50 meter zone.

The raised table pottery was particularly enlightening in terms of the more precise chronological inclusion of the wreck, which can now be safely dated between 480 and 520 AD, probably during the years of Emperor Anastasios I (491 – 518 AD). A.D.), known from historiographical sources, mainly for his tax and monetary reforms, which strengthened the state coffers and allowed the expansionist policy of the emperors of the 6th century.

Beyond the Main Wreck

In parallel with the excavation of the wreck, findings from three more wrecks of the Fourni archipelago were recovered, which are intended for their museum exhibition at the Archaeological Museum of Fournoi, under establishment. Among these finds are a giant archaic anchor obelisk and amphorae from shipwrecks of the 6th century. e.g. and 7th and 8th c. A.D.

Investing in the Future

An equally important aspect of the research was training nine undergraduate and postgraduate students of the University of Thessaly in the methods and practices of marine archaeology, gaining substantial experience for their professional training and subsequent development. The general direction of the research was the assistant professor of Maritime Archaeology at the University of Thessaly, Dr. George Koutsouflakis, and from the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities archaeologist, Dionysios Evangelistis. The research was framed by a staff of 30 divers from different specialties (archaeologists, architects, antiquities conservators, professional divers, photographers, and students).

Research Team and Acknowledgements

The research was supported financially, logistically and with human resources by

and the companies

Warm thanks are due to the Mayor of Fournoi Korseon, Dimitrios Karydis, and the Secretary General of Aegean and Island Policy, Manolis Koutoulakis.

Korseai Institute of Historical & Archaeological Research

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