Findings at the shipwreck of Fournoi, Delos

Ancient Remains and New Shipwrecks Show the Greek Island of Delos was a Major International Trading Port

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The Culture and Sports Ministry of Greece has recently announced that ancient remains and new shipwrecks have been found during an underwater archaeological excavation conducted by the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities at the island of Delos. Experts are fascinated by the fact that the several shipwrecks found date back to many different eras, as News Network Archaeology reports .

Findings at the shipwreck of Fournoi, Delos Photo Credit: Ministry of Culture and Sports

Findings at the shipwreck of Fournoi, Delos Photo Credit: Ministry of Culture and Sports

The Archeological Value of Delos

Mykonos is undoubtedly one of the most famous islands on the planet thanks to its intense nightlife and colorful lifestyle. However, only a few minutes away from the popular island there is Delos, one of the most significant islands worldwide from an archaeological and cultural point of view.  The archaeological site of Delos is exceptionally extensive and rich and conveys the image of a great cosmopolitan Mediterranean port. According to the official tourism website for Greece, “nowhere else in the Globe is there a natural insular archaeological site of this size and importance. No other island on Earth hosts so many monumental antiquities from the Archaic, the Classical, and the Hellenistic periods, i.e. the centuries of the great Greek art, on a territory used exclusively as an archaeological site.”

The Delos Lions ( CC BY SA 3.0 )

Impressive Finds Discovered on the Island’s Seabed

It’s no wonder that Delos often becomes the center of archaeology’s interest due to its rich and long history. This is the case with the recent discovery of the remains of ancient coastal structures and a port, a large number of shipwrecks dating back to various eras and many important smaller finds during an underwater archaeological excavation conducted by the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities at the island of Delos from May 2 until May 20. "The finds confirm that Delos was an important trading base and an important maritime trade route through the ages, linking the east and west Mediterranean," a ministry announcement mentioned as News Network Archaeology reports .

Investigating the shipwreck at Fylladi Bay of Rineia.

Investigating the shipwreck at Fylladi Bay of Rineia. Photo Credit: Ministry of Culture and Sports

Archaeologists conducted a detailed investigation of the ancient artificial offshore structure that protected the island's central port in antiquity from the ferocious northwestern winds, which is now underwater due to the sea level risen by almost two meters since that time. According to the ministry’s announcement, “the breakwater was an impressively strong structure, roughly 160 meters long and at least 40 meters wide, built on a pile of unshaped rocks, while its upper structure was for the great part constructed of granite blocks of impressive size." The ministry’s announcement also mentioned that the date of the breakwater’s construction remains unknown and further archaeological and geological research will be conducted soon in order to learn more information about it.

Smaller, Very Significant Finds Discovered

Additional finds include the remains of walls and a semi-destroyed colonnade, the remains of a later Hellenistic era shipwreck carrying amphorae of oil and wine from Italy and the western Mediterranean, as well as two more shipwrecks from the same chronological period off the southern tip of Delos and at Rineia, in Fylladi Bay.

Late Hellenistic shipwreck at Fylladi Bay of Rineia

Late Hellenistic shipwreck at Fylladi Bay of Rineia Photo Credit: Ministry of Culture and Sports

The archaeological mission also got the chance to photograph and map two more shipwrecks found in previous underwater excavation, at Kato Kerenale and near Fournoi. All the newly discovered shipwrecks date to the period between the end of the 2nd century and the 1st century BC, when Delos was flourishing.

As News Network Archaeology reports , finds from other regions outside Greece - such as Italy, Spain and North Africa – clearly show that the island had trading relations with other Mediterranean nations during the Hellenistic period. Also there were found earlier objects dating to the 5th century BC when little is known about the island's activities.

Ultimately, the excavation in the area was the result of the collaboration between the French Archaeological School and the head of the Delos excavations Dr. Jean Charles Moretti, as well as Dr. Mantha Zarmakoupi of the National Hellenic Research Foundation, with the help of underwater topographer Lionel Fantin of the French School and Spyridon Moureas offering technical support. The expense of the excavation was covered by the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, the French Archaeological School and the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies.

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