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Underwater Museum of Peristera: The Parthenon of Shipwrecks

peristera shipwreck
Diving into a sea of amphorae off Alonissos. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture

The ancient shipwreck of Peristera, off the Greek island of Alonissos, dubbed “the Parthenon of shipwrecks”, opened up in May to divers who are able to visit the famous shipwreck of amphorae from the 5th century BC.

Accompanied by instructors, divers can get a close look at the huge pile of amphorae, which extends to the sea bottom for a length of 25 meters.

Because of looting concerns, the undersea antiquities were previously accessible only to archaeologists and those with special permission.

Now recreational divers can plunge into the waters and, at a depth of about 80 feet, encounter the so-called Peristera, named after the neighboring uninhabited islet. As the wreck dates back to about 425 B.C., diving to it is like traveling in a time machine.

A fisherman was the first to encounter the ancient shipwreck near the western rocky shore of Peristera in 1985, at a depth of 28 meters (92 feet): a large merchant ship, possibly one from Athens, sank there around 425 BC.

It was loaded with thousands of wine amphorae from Mendi, an ancient city of Halkidiki, and Peparithos, today’s Skopelos, areas known in antiquity for their wine.

The shipwreck is one of the most important in all of classical antiquity.

Peristera shipwreck one of the best preserved

“Large vessels as this [39 by 82 feet] were considered to be first built in Roman times. Peristera shipwreck, though, documents their presence already in the last quarter of the fifth century B.C.,” Pari Kalamara, director of Greece’s Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, told the National Geographic recently.

The shipwreck is also one of the best preserved. “The amphorae cargo has maintained its consistency and remains in place, in layers, such as was loaded in the hold, indicating the vessel’s shape,” says Kalamara. “This is a significantly unique experience for the divers-visitors who visualize a classical-era vessel.”

Its investigation was carried out by archaeologists and the staff of the Ephorate of Marine Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture, who take care of the opening of the shipwreck to the public.

The impressive number of amphorae, the excellent condition of the shipwreck and the beauty of the exotic waters, located within the protected area of ​​the National Marine Park of Alonissos, make the Peristera shipwreck a destination that intrigues every experienced diver.

Access to the mysterious world of the seabed, however, is not only for diving friends, but for all visitors to Alonissos, who have the opportunity to enjoy the unique spectacle of the shipwreck, without even getting wet.

In the enchanting alleys of Alonissos Town, the Center for Public Information offers visitors comprehensive information about the history of ancient shipwrecks and even the ability to “virtually dive” to the bottom and “navigate shipwrecks” like a real diver, with technological applications of augmented reality.

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