Recent Finds from Heraklion

A bit vague … from Greek Reporter:

A series of important archaeological findings has gradually been unearthed by the sunken submarine research in the Heraklion port located in ancient Egypt, the last years, according to announcements made at an international scientific conference at the University of Oxford.

The coastal city on the delta of the Nile, called Heraklion by Greeks, and Thomis by Egyptians, was an important gateway to Egypt during the first millennium BC, while now having sunk, it is located approximately 6.5 km from the coast. According to the latest evidence, before the founding of Alexandria, it was one of the greatest commercial hubs in the Mediterranean.

Researchers of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology (OCMA), in collaboration with the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) and the Department of Antiquities of Egypt have been conducting underwater researches in the region since 2000, and every year new data comes to light.

‘Surveys have revealed a huge submerged landscape with remains of at least two major ancient settlements in a part of the Nile, where natural and artificial navigable channels intersected’ Dr. Damien Robinson, director of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology said.

Excavations in the Heraklion area have brought to light many findings including, as stated by the researcher of Oxford, Elizabeth van der Vilt, weights from ancient Athens.

Another Oxford researcher, Sandra Heids, has examined more than 300 statues and amulets, dating from the Late and Ptolemaic period depicting Egyptian and Greek figures. Like the ships, these findings have also been maintained in excellent condition and most of them depict deities such as Osiris, Isis and Horus.

According to the researchers, such statuettes and amulets were massively produced, mostly for Egyptians, though several of them were purchased by foreign visitors as well (traders, etc), who used to devote them to several churches in their countries.

… the conference was a week or so ago; perhaps we’ll be hearing more …

More Antikythera Wreck Hype

Jo Marchant has written another piece for the Guardian (confusingly, with the same title as a previous piece) detailing a bit more what they hope to find … in medias res:

[…] For centuries Antikythera was in a busy shipping lane, but surprisingly its treacherous underwater cliffs and reefs are not littered with sunken ships (perhaps those ancient navigators were more skilled than we thought). And there are no obvious signs of a wreck at the site supposedly excavated by Cousteau, suggesting that he recovered all of the visible items there – or that he planted some of his finds for the cameras.

But 200 metres away, the divers found artefacts spread across the rocky sea floor, on a steep slope between 35 and 60 metres deep.

The largest item recovered was a huge lead anchor stock. It was lying on a semicircular object that might be a scupper pipe, used to drain water from the ship’s deck. If so, the ship may have gone down as she was sailing with the anchor stowed. The team also raised an intact storage jar (amphora), which matches those previously recovered from the wreck. DNA tests may reveal its original contents.

Most intriguing are dozens of irregular spherical objects sprinkled across the wreck site. They look like rocks but contain flecks of green, suggesting small bronze fragments, corroded and encrusted in sediment after thousands of years in the sea. This is just what the Antikythera mechanism looked like when it was discovered. Then again, they could be collections of ship’s nails.

Because the artefacts the team found are a short distance from the site investigated by Cousteau, it’s possible that they belong to a second ship from around the same date as the original wreck, perhaps part of the same fleet. But Foley thinks it more likely that all of the remains come from one vessel that broke up as it sank.

To confirm this, he hopes to revisit the site later this year. He wants to use metal detectors to map the distribution of metal and ceramic objects buried beneath the surface, as well as dig a few test trenches. “I’m intensely curious about what’s in the sediments,” he says. […].

cf. our previous coverage on Foley’s work … it includes a link to Marchant’s previous item: Returning to Antikythera

Antikythera Shipwreck AIA Tease

USA Today has some hype for Brendan Foley’s AIA paper today, including this tantalizing paragraph:

[…] Along with vase-like amphora vessels, pottery shards and roof tiles, Foley says, the wreck also appears to have “dozens” of calcified objects resembling compacted boulders made out of hardened sand resting atop the amphorae on the sea bottom. Those boulders resemble the Antikythera mechanism before its recovery and restoration. In 2006, an X-ray tomography team reported that the mechanism contained at least 30 hand-cut bronze gears re-creating astronomical cycles useful in horoscopes and timing of the Olympic Games in the ancient world, the most elaborate mechanical device known from antiquity until the Middle Ages. “The (objects) may just be collections of bronze nails, but we won’t know until someone takes a look at them,” Foley says. […]

… would be nice if some of the twitterati gave this some coverage …

More Antiquities on the Mentor?

According to the Greek Reporter, there are at least some coins (?):

The underwater shipwreck excavation of the wreck of the ship Mentor, that sank off the island of Kythera in 1802 while carrying goods plundered from the Parthenon by British diplomat Lord Elgin has proved to be a treasure trove of personal items from the passengers and crew.

A greater number of coins were also found, at least two ancient silver coins which were antiquities acquired by Elgin, passengers or the crew,along with two gold coins, used as currency at the time, from the late 1700’s. Other coins were also recovered but require conservation before they can be identified. Some of these may also be ancient.

Finding three ancient coins on the wreck last year created international news, prompting a question about what other antiquities Elgin was transporting, in addition to crates of Parthenon marbles and sculptures. There may be even more questions from this year’s finds, after conservation of currently unidentified coins is completed.

Another pistol was recovered, a fob (pocket) watch, personal seal with a cannon on it and gold chain, a pipe, ring, part of navigation instruments, bottles, musket balls, cannon balls, crockery and ceramics possibly from the galley (kitchen) area. The Mentor was a small Brig, carrying 16 crates of Parthenon sculptures and a marble throne, en-route to Malta and then the United Kingdom.

Diaries from the time reveal that the Parthenon sculptures and marble throne were recovered by sponge divers from Simi and Kalymnos in 1802-1804 but it’s unknown what else remains buried on the bottom of the sea, near Avlemonas.

Dimitris Kourkoumelis, an archaeologist in Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities is going to give a speech on Nov. 26 in the auditorium of the National Archaeological Museum on the Mentor Shipwreck at Kythera, will be held on the occasion of the lecture program organized by the Association of Friends of National Archaeological Museum.

Roman Shipwrecks off Elaiussa Sebaste/Mersin

From the English edition of the Gazzetta del Sud:

Two ancient Roman shipwrecks, complete with their cargo, have been discovered by Italian archaeologists off the coast of Turkey near the the ancient Roman city of Elaiussa Sebaste. The ships, one dating from the Roman Imperial period and the other from about the sixth century AD, have been found with cargoes of amphorae and marble, say researchers from the Italian Archaeological Mission of Rome’s University La Sapienza. Both ships were discovered near Elaiussa Sebaste, on the Aegean coast of Turkey near Mersin, according to a statement issued by the Italian embassy in Ankara. Officials say the discoveries – led by Italian archaeologist Eugenia Equini Schneider – confirm the important role Elaiussa Sebaste played within the main sea routes between Syria, Egypt, and the Anatolian peninsula from the days of Augustus until the early Byzantine period. Elaiussa, meaning olive, was founded in the 2nd century BC on a tiny island attached to the mainland by a narrow isthmus in the Mediterranean Sea. Schneider has been leading the excavations since 1995.

There were other finds (not underwater) earlier in the month: Roman Bath From Elaissua Sebaste