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Intact Amphorae from Ancient Kythera Shipwreck Recovered

Kythera Shipwreck
A shipwreck from the fifth century AD has been found off Kythera, Greece; its load of amphorae and other vessels have now been brought to the surface by archaeologists. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

Intact amphorae from the Greek islands of Corfu and Skopelos have now been brought to the surface after a shipwreck that occurred in the fifth century was discovered when an electrical cable was laid on the seabed in the Strait of Kythera – Neapolis.

First seen in 2019 by electrical authority personnel who were laying the cable, the wreck of the vessel that once transported the exquisite amphorae is so far below the surface off the island of Kythera, at a depth of 222 meters (728 feet), that it had been forgotten for many centuries.

Now, with the technical support of the Hellenic Center for Marine Research, which provided the oceanographic ship “Aegean” equipped with a submarine remote control vehicle called the MAX ROVER with an integrated side scanner, the ship has given up its treasures.

It is thought to have settled on the sea bottom in a completely upright position due to the amphorae lying in the pattern in which they were loaded, still taking the form of the ship.

The underwater research was carried out with the financial support of IPTO, Greece’s Independent Power Transmission Operator.

Greece’s Minister of Culture and Sports, Lena Mendoni, stated on Monday following the announcement of the bringing up of the amphorae from the shipwreck: “Our country is a developed archeological site, an archeological palimpsest. The land and the seas hide unexplored cultural treasures. In any major project, public or private, the chances of discovering antiquities are extremely high.

Kythira vessels shipwreck
Precious amphorae from the shipwreck in the Kythira Strait, Greece were brought to the surface by archaeologists on Monday. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

Kythera shipwreck is untouched treasure trove

“In the case of the wiring project for the transmission of electricity from Kissamos to Laconia, undertaken by the IPTO, a significant shipwreck of classical times was located in the Kythera-Neapolis strait, which was archaeologically investigated by the Ephorate of Marine Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture and valuable technical and scientific support of the Hellenic Center for Marine Research, while the cost of the research was covered by IPTO. I express my congratulations and thanks to all the contributors of the research.”

From the preliminary results of the underwater research it was found that in addition to the cargo of the ship which consists mainly of Corfiot amphorae, other amphorae belonging to  the “Solocha II” type, with possible origin from ancient Peparithos (the island of Skopelos) were also found.

Related story: Items found in wreck of Elgin ship off Kythera

In addition, clay vessels from Chios, three pithos, a set of table vessels including a flat-bottomed table amphora, as well as a fish panel and two skyphids were lifted from the shipwreck site.

The 3D illustration of the wreck created by Dr. Ioannis Issaris of ELKETHE is now in progress; it is expected to further clarify the initial conclusions, including the number of objects visible there, and the size of the cargo dispersion, showing the size of the ship.

The two scientific teams were headed up by the archaeologists Dr. Theotokis Theodoulou, Head of the Crete Office of EEC; Dr. George Tsimpoukis; Dr. Stavroula Vrachionidou; Dr. Anastasia Koukris and Dr. Leonidas Manousakis.

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