The Initial Concept

The archipelago of Fournoi Korseon was never prominently chosen as the field for conducting an underwater archaeological survey. The national policy on conducting underwater surveys focuses mainly on maritime regions associated with influential terrestrial archaeological sites or areas that historically had particular geopolitical importance and played a crucial role in ancient and medieval navigation.

Why Fournoi? A Multifaceted Decision

Fournοi, a seemingly isolated place, did not meet any of the above features. The ground stays silent, providing few archaeological remains and inscriptions that survived wind erosion. As with most small islands of the Aegean, there has never been intensive archaeological field investigation. The existing evidence from land surveys does not significantly differentiate Fournοi from any other cluster of small or larger islands of the eastern Aegean.

In 2013, the research directors Dr. George Koutsouflakis and Peter Campbell began the first theoretical searches for a new survey in the Aegean region. With already having years of prior experience in underwater reconnaissance surveys in the Aegean, mainly in areas that historically played an important role in maritime communication and that were directly linked with influential cities and economic centers during ancient times, it was decided to change the current model of field research choice and to look for a regional insular place for which there is no extensive ergography or previous research experience.

A place that had never been researched before, where a systematic underwater archaeological investigation could take place from the beginning, away from former scientific considerations that are often reproduced in the bibliography and create a consolidated historical perception. A place that is a geographical unit and an entity, where it would be easier to examine over time the interconnectivity of its geographically scattered surroundings.

Apart from a preliminary level of historical understanding of the marine environment, the selection reasons were multiple and associated with some not directly archaeological criteria. The multifarious geographical relief of about twenty islands, islets, and rock islands that make up the archipelago of Fournοi, with the notably rich horizontal and vertical division, was one of the area’s characteristics that immediately caught our interest.

A second reason was the geographical location of Fourni in a crossing of primary navigation routes in the North–South axis, along the Asia Minor coast and the East–West axis, from mainland Greece, through the Cyclades to Ikaria, Samos and central Asia Minor. These routes are incorporated into and integral to local importance broader networks.
Finally, crucial in our final decision was the presence of authorities and a local population who were ready to support this research morally and logistically for a long time.

A Serendipitous Discovery

The research proposal was submitted to the Ministry of Culture in November 2014, and a proposal for research cooperation between the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and R.P.M. Foundation Nautical Foundation was formulated. As for the purpose of the investigation: identification, mapping and documentation of marine archaeological remains in the Archipelago Sea, which are associated with ancient, medieval and modern shipping and freight handling. The research proposal was fully accepted by the Central Archaeological Council and subsequently licensed by the Minister of Culture and Sport.

While using every information available, the first two research seasons (September 2015 and December 2016) led to an unprecedented recording and documentation of forty-five shipwrecks. These preliminary investigations were only the beginning of a four-year research program that will be completed in 2018 to primarily map all shipwrecks and pottery depositions of the nearly twenty islands of the cluster.

A Promising Future

After completing this process, we will be able to fully understand the use of this sea area and highlight the ancient and medieval shipwrecks that have an important historical significance and can qualify for excavation in the future.

Korseai Institute of Historical & Archaeological Research

Our mission is to advance the understanding of the past through rigorous research and innovative approaches.