Archaeologists to reveal secrets of world’s oldest submerged town in Greece

May 13th, 2009 - 2:07 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 13 (ANI): With the help of equipment that could revolutionize underwater archaeology, archaeologists will try to uncover the secrets of Pavlopetri in Greece, which is the world’s oldest submerged town.

The ancient town of Pavlopetri lies in three to four meters of water just off the coast of southern Laconia in Greece.

The ruins date from at least 2800 BC through to intact buildings, courtyards, streets, chamber tombs and some thirty-seven cist graves which are thought to belong to the Mycenaean period (c.1680-1180 BC).

Underwater archaeologist Dr Jon Henderson, from The University of Nottingham, will be the first archaeologist to have official access to the site in 40 years.

Although Mycenaean power was largely based on their control of the sea, little is known about the workings of the harbour towns of the period as archaeology to date has focused on the better known inland palaces and citadels.

Pavlopetri was presumably once a thriving harbour town where the inhabitants conducted local and long distance trade throughout the Mediterranean. Its sandy and well-protected bay would have been ideal for beaching Bronze Age ships.

As such, the site offers major new insights into the workings of Mycenaean society.

The aim of Dr Henderson’s project is to discover the history and development of Pavlopetri, find out when it was occupied, what it was used for and through a systematic study of the geomorphology of the area establish why the town disappeared under the sea.

According to Dr Henderson, from the Underwater Archaeology Research Centre (UARC) in the Department of Archaeology, “This site is of rare international archaeological importance. It is imperative that the fragile remains of this town are accurately recorded and preserved before they are lost forever.”

The survey, in collaboration with Elias Spondylis of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, will be carried out using equipment originally developed for the military and offshore oilfield market but looks set to transform underwater archaeological survey and recording.

Dr Henderson and his team will carry out a detailed millimeter accurate digital underwater survey of the site using an acoustic scanner developed by a major North American offshore engineering company.

The equipment can produce photo-realistic, three dimensional digital surveys of seabed features and underwater structures to sub-millimetre accuracy in a matter of minutes.

“The ability to survey submerged structures, from shipwrecks to sunken cities, quickly, accurately and more importantly, cost effectively, is a major obstacle to the future development of underwater archaeology. I believe we now have a technique which effectively solves this problem,” Dr Henderson said. (ANI)

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