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Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Twenty-three new shipwrecks discovered in Greece’s Fourni archipelago

Published: 14 July 2016
The remains of a wooden shipwreck

A joint Greek-American expedition to the Fourni archipelago, a cluster of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, has uncovered twenty-three new shipwrecks that date from the late Archaic Period (c. 525-480 BC) to the Early Modern Period (c. 1750-1850).

Co-directed by University of Southampton archaeologist Peter Campbell, the Fourni Underwater Survey’s new findings were discovered in June 2016, adding to the twenty-two shipwrecks identified during the first season in September 2015. The finds reveal the importance of eastern Mediterranean trade networks passing through Fourni, connecting the Black Sea and Aegean to Cyprus, the Levant and Egypt. Some ships even carried goods from North Africa, Spain and Italy.

“The concentration of the shipwrecks and the large area remaining to be explored leaves every indication that there are many more sites to discover,” says Peter Campbell, who is also affiliated to the US-based RPM Nautical Foundation. “We expect more seasons like these first two. The Fourni dataset offers great insight into ancient navigation and trade.”

Fourni is a collection of 13 islands and islets between the Aegean islands of Samos and Icaria. The small islands never had large settlements; instead its importance comes from its critical role as an anchorage and navigational point in the eastern Aegean. Fourni lies along a major east-west crossing route, as well as the primary north-south route that connected the Aegean to the Levant.

With 45 known shipwrecks around its 17 square mile territory, Fourni may have one of the largest concentrations of ancient shipwrecks in the world. For comparison, many larger islands around the Mediterranean have only three or four known shipwrecks. The United States recently created a national marine sanctuary in Lake Michigan to protect 39 known shipwrecks located in 875 square miles.

The expedition was a collaboration between the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities (EUA) and RPM Nautical Foundation (RPMNF), directed by George Koutsouflakis (EUA) and Peter Campbell (RPMNF/University of Southampton). Funded was provided by UK charity the Honor Frost Foundation, and Croatian NGO Deep Blue Explorers. George Koumbas, Carrefour Ikaria, Municipality of Fourni Korseon, Business Association of Fourni, Port Police, and Field Notes provided sponsorship and assistance

The researchers also attribute much of the success of the project to working with the local community. The research was carried out primarily by scuba divers, surveying along the coastline at depths of up to 65 meters. Surveying will continue into 2018.

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