PWSS - Mt. Athos Peninsula Survey

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Dimanche, Juin 1, 2003 - Mercredi, Juin 30, 2004

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"The 2003 Season consisted of a two-week project surveying the seas off the Mt. Athos peninsula in search of remains of a Persian fleet which sank there in about 492 B.C. during Darius’ first attempt to invade Greece. According to Herodotus (VI: 44), nearly 300 ships were lost and over 20,000 men perished in a storm.

The research was conducted on the R/V Aegaeo of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) using its sidescan sonar, Thetis submersible and Achilles remote-operated vehicle (ROV). An extensive sidescan sonar survey in the waters to the east and south of the Athos peninsula was carried out and covered approximately 170 square kilometers of seabed. They also visually examined the southwestern area near Cape Phonias.

Selected targets were then searched using the submersible and ROV. The expedition discovered an amphora-carrying wreck in the Gulf of Ierissos, tentatively dated to the Classical or early Hellenistic period and, with information supplied by a local fisherman, relocated the potential wreck site of a weapon-bearing Classical-period ship. Examining the seabed in this area with an ROV, the team located a jar at 96 meters of depth into which a resident octopus had sequestered a pointed object. When raised this proved to be a bronze spear-butt spike (Gk. sauroter) with remains of the wooden shaft still contained within its socket."

"The 2004 Season also consisted of a two-week project focused on the area off the Mt. Athos peninsula. The research was conducted on the R/V Aegaeo of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) using its Thetis submersible and Max Rover remote-operated vehicle (ROV).The team examined sidescan sonar targets located during the previous season with a main focus on conducting a comprehensive survey around the southern capes and shorelines of Mt. Athos in order to map all shipwrecks and collections of lost cargoes found in that zone.

The ROV Max Rover covered approximately 150 kilometers of seabed down to 600 meters depth using video imaging and sonar. The Thetis submersible conducted daily dives to examine targets and raise artifacts. Meanwhile, the R/V Aegaeo engaged in detailed bathymetric surveys of the nearshore environs of Mt. Athos. Concurrent with the archaeological search, data concerning the marine geology of the region were collected and analyzed with respect to erosion, sedimentation and ancient shorelines.

The discoveries included two groups of amphoras located by the MaxRover at a depth of nearly 130 meters. Amphoras are two-handled ceramic jars used in antiquity for transporting wine and other commodities. One group consisted of seven amphoras, dating to the Classical period. They were tentatively identified as products of ancient Mende, located northwest of Mt. Athos. After being mapped, one of the jars was raised to the surface by Thetis for identification and analysis by the Greek Department of Underwater Antiquties. The second group of amphoras was dated to the period of the Byzantine Empire and located at a slightly shallower depth."

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