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Three Ancient Shipwrecks Still With Cargo Found Off Greek Island

Three Ancient Shipwrecks Still With Cargo Found Off Greek Island


Three ancient Greek shipwrecks have been discovered off the small Aegean island of Kasos.

In a statement released on Monday, Greece’s Culture Ministry said a subsea exploration funded by the Kasos Association of New York and supported by the municipality of Kasos island has found three ancient shipwrecks still containing large sections of their cargos. Divers located the vessel off the coast of the small Aegean island of Kasos in what was an extensive underwater survey that ended last month and marine archaeologists have reported finding cannons, stone anchors, pottery, fine tableware, and many other valuable artifacts.

Iron Cannon discovered in shipwreck. (Culture Ministry / Facebook)

Traders Of The Lost Ark

The island of Kasos lies between Crete and Rhodes on what is a historic maritime trading route linking the Middle East with the Aegean. According to Greek Reporter the oldest of the wrecks was a 2,300 year-old trading ship upon which the archaeologists located five stone anchors, fine tableware, and amphorae, which were large clay jars used to transport oils, wines, and food. Two other ships were also found which dated to the 1st century BC and the 8th-10th century AD.

Stone anchor from a late classic shipwreck. (Culture Ministry / Facebook)

An article in the National Herald says this phase of the project required “67 divers” who together covered more than one-third of designated site during the 2019 exploratory season and they plan to resume diving in 2020 and will continue towards the end of 2021. The archaeologists still need to "discover, study, and identify” the hulls of these ancient ghost ships that once sailed this important route which served as cross-cultural conduit with the eastern cultures, for many centuries.

Old And New Shipwrecks

The 8-10th century AD (Byzantine era) ship was found with an ancient Greek ship believed to have sunk in the 1st century BC, but the oldest shipwreck that has been found at Kasos dates way back to the 4th century BC. Fortunately, the most ancient ship was also the one that contained the most archaeologically valuable treasure in the form of four different types of ancient pottery.

Lifting Amphora from Byzantine era shipwreck. (Culture Ministry / Facebook)

Kasos, and the region around it served as a sort of maritime crossroads for many centuries where exotic products of the east came into contact with civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean, however, not all the finds are from the old world. According to the Greek Reporter “the last shipwreck” recovered by the archaeological divers was a modern era ship carrying construction materials and another shipwreck was found dating to the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s.

Frames and pipes from the shipwreck of the years of the Greek revolution. (Culture Ministry / Facebook)

2019 – The Year of Ghost Ships

The 4th century BC shipwreck, with all the different pottery, dates to exactly the same century as another shipwreck which is suspected to be the world’s “oldest intact shipwreck” which an October article in The Guardian said was discovered at the bottom of the Black Sea earlier this year. The 2,400 year-old, 75 foot (23 meter) vessel of ancient Greek origins, was discovered in a near perfect state of preservation still equipped with rudders, rowing benches, and its mast.

Professor Jon Adams is the principal investigator with the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (MAP), and he said the reason these shipwrecks are so well preserved at such depths is because of a lack of oxygen. However, even with all his experience, he said finding surviving intact ships from the classical world beneath 1.24 miles (2 kilometers) of sea is something he “would never have believed possible” and that such discoveries will “change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world”.

The Grand Daddy of Shipwrecks

An article such as this, about ancient shipwrecks discovered in 2019, wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the April 2019 announcement in Daily Sabah of the incredible findings of a group of Turkish underwater researchers from Antalya University's Underwater Research Department. Just off the western shores of the city of Antalya they found a 46 foot (14 meter) long Bronze Age shipwreck in 164 feet (50 meters) of water holding 1.5 tons of copper bullion. And dating to 3,600 years-old, if verified, this will be the world's “oldest shipwreck”.

It is suspected that this shipwreck is older than a Greek merchant ship found off Bulgaria's Black Sea coast in 2018 which dates back more than 3,400 years and described as the world's oldest known “intact shipwreck”. Built around 1,600 BC, Antalya Governor Münir Karaloğlu, told press at the time that the discovery of this shipwreck was the “Göbeklitepe” of underwater archaeology, a terrestrial site often referred to as Point Zero in cultural archaeology.

Top image: Three shipwrecks from ancient and medieval times have been discovered off the small Aegean island of Kasos. Source: Culture Ministry / Facebook.

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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