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Greek Archaeologists Find the Traces of an Ancient Iranian Fleet


News Category: Achaemenian Dynasty

 15 December 2003



Metal object retrieved from seabed off Mount Athos coastline

Artist Reconstruction of Achaemenid Imperial Battleship


Significant discoveries that may point to the location of a sunken fleet led by the Persian general Mardonio have been made by an underwater archaeological team working at the eastern side of the Mt Athos peninsula in October, organized by the Underwater Antiquities Ephorate in cooperation with the Canadian Archaeological Institute and the Greek Center for Marine Research.

Particularly encouraging was the discovery of a metal object identified as the point to the bottom of a spear, a rare find in the sea.

The exploration, led by the ephorate’s director Ekaterini Dellaporta and Professor Shelley Wachsmann of Texas University, provided many positive results that will ensure its continuation next season with permission from the Culture Ministry.

The goal was to discover the Iranian fleet of some 300 ships that sank during a storm near Mt Athos during Darius’ first attempt to invade Greece in 493 BC.

Two-and-a-half millennia later, scientists are trying to find traces of this history. Exploration over an area of 173 square kilometers of seabed at a depth of 480 meters, east and southwest of the peninsula and in the Lerissos Gulf has been undertaken using Side Scan Sonar. Within the gulf, the exploration team of two archaeologists and a member of the Greek Marine Research Center, which had made available its oceanographic vessel, the Aegean, found a wreck containing amphorae dating from the Classical or early Hellenistic periods.

An area marked out by the ephorate was monitored by the bathyscaphes Thetis and the underwater Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) Achilleas, which also examined another area of seabed where in 1996 two local fishermen (the Sakkalis brothers) had pulled up in their nets two copper Corinthian helmets dating from the Classical period. The objects were found at a depth of 110 meters.

The ephorate considers the most important find to date at 96 meters, enclosed within a pot. According to an initial evaluation, is a piece of metal that was attached to the bottom of spears during Classical times. Similar objects have been found on land, but rarely in the sea. The point where it was found, which is also where the two helmets lay, indicates the existence of a wrecked warship




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