Marine archaeologists uncover Roman-era shipwreck off the coast of a Greek island

The Mediterranean coast of the Greek island of Kasos has been a bountiful site for marine archaeologists interested in uncovering the ancient history of the region. A recent survey revealed 10 shipwrecks, dating from as early as the Classical era (around 500 B.C.) until the 19th and 20th centuries.

Among the shipwrecks included one Roman vessel from the second to third century A.D., which was carrying a cargo of Aegean cylindrical amphorae—ancient storage vessels used to transport materials. Unfortunately, the wrecks from the Classical era did not preserve wooden hulls, only their ceramic cargo. This is due to the alkalinity of the Aegean Sea, which is not conducive to wooden hull preservation.

However, the researchers were able to uncover part of a wooden hull associated with an iron cannon, which could date from the 19th century. Two other ships were also modern, preserving metallic and wooden parts. The more modern shipwrecks include a wooden vessel with metal elements estimated at 82-98 feet long, possibly dating from World War II.

In addition to shipwrecks, the researchers also made various stray finds, which are artifacts that are not associated with a shipwreck or underwater site. These include amphorae from different periods, anchors, cannons, medieval bowls, and a large storage jar from Djerba, Tunisia. One of the most remarkable discoveries was a prehistoric artifact dating back to the third millennium B.C., representing the oldest recorded find in the waters of the Dodecanese.

These findings provide concrete evidence of the maritime activities that occurred in the Aegean region over millennia, offering insights into ancient trade networks, navigation routes, and cultural exchanges. They help to understand the economic, social, and political dynamics of ancient societies, as evidenced by the types of cargo and artifacts found. These discoveries are also significant for heritage preservation, tourism development, and fostering cultural appreciation and understanding.

This project was carried out by a team in collaboration with Greece's National Hellenic Research Foundation and the Ministry of Culture, focusing on surveying the island of Kasos in the Aegean Sea, a region between the Greek peninsula to the west and Turkey's Anatolia peninsula to the east. The island had previously been overlooked in historical accounts, and the project hopes to reveal its importance in ancient maritime routes.

Xanthie Argiris, who led the project, hopes to continue the team's research in the coming years, but it significantly depends on securing adequate funding. Underwater research is particularly costly, including transportation, equipment, and logistics. Still, the researchers are dedicated to advancing our understanding of maritime heritage.

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