New Shipwrecks Found in Eastern Med


The Greek seabed is rich in ancient and medieval shipwrecks, especially around the remote Fourni archipelago, a small cluster of islands between Samos and Ikaria in the eastern Mediterranean.

In just 11 days of diving in September 2015, divers discovered 22 shipwrecks. This June they returned to the Fourni archipelago with a team of 25 divers, archaeologists, and artifact conservators from Greece and the United States. Over 22 days of diving they found an additional 23 pre-modern shipwrecks, raising the total number identified at Fourni so far to 45, an astonishing 20 percent of all known shipwrecks in Greek waters.

The new discoveries make the archipelago of Fourni by far the richest in ancient sea wrecks of Greek Territory and one of the richest in the Mediterranean. The abundance of natural bays and harbors made Fourni an appealing shelter for ancient ships seeking refuge from strong winds on the open waters.

 The wrecks, which have been catalogued since autumn of 2015, were originally found by Manos Mitakas, a local free diver, and fishermen who had been noticing scattered amphorae (large clay vessels used in grain, wine, and oil storage) in many places on the sea floor. Mitakas called the Ephorate, which immediately began investigating the site.

The 23 new wrecks date from the end of the archaic period to the 19th century.

The most remarkable findings of the 2016 survey include a wreck with “koan” amphorae, dating to the mid-Hellenistic period, a wreck from the Late Archaic/early classical period with a cargo of amphorae from the eastern Aegean, a shipwreck from Roman times with amphora load from Sinop, on the Black sea, a shipwreck with amphorae from 3rd and 4th centuries, AD Roman colonies in North Africa, and a shipwreck laden with table pottery from early Christian times, also coming from North Africa.

It is estimated that only 15% of the total coastline surrounding the Fourni archipelago has been explored by scientists. Research will continue, with the promise of the discovery of many more shipwrecks on the horizon.