Race to preserve the world's oldest submerged town

May 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The oldest submerged town in the world is about to give up its secrets — with the help of equipment that could revolutionise underwater archaeology.

The ancient town of Pavlopetri lies in three to four metres 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). This phase of Greece provides the historical setting for much Ancient Greek literature and myth, including Homer's Age of Heroes.

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. Despite its potential international importance no work has been carried out at the site since it was first mapped in 1968 and Dr Henderson has had to get special permission from the Greek government to examine the submerged town.

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.

Dr Henderson, from the Underwater Archaeology Research Centre (UARC) in the Department of Archaeology, said: “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. A fundamental aim of the project is to raise awareness of the importance of the site and ensure that it is ethically managed and presented to the public in a way which is sustainable and of benefit to both the development of tourism and the local community.”

The submerged buildings, courtyards, streets, tombs and graves, lie just off a sandy stretch of beach close to an area popular with holiday makers and campers. Under threat from tourism and industry the remains are being damaged by boats dragging their anchors, inquisitive snorkelers on the hunt for souvenirs and the growth of marine organisms which are also taking their toll degrading the fragile 3,500 year old walls.

The survey, in collaboration with Mr 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.

Dr Henderson said: “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.”

Joining the team will be Dr Nicholas Flemming who discovered the site in 1967. The following year he led a team from the University of Cambridge who surveyed the area with hand tapes. The archaeological material — pottery, figurines, obsidian and small finds — they collected belong to the Early Helladic, Middle Helladic and Late Helladic period (c. 2800-1180 BC). A systematic assessment of the finds recovered at the time is currently being undertaken by Dr Chrysanthi Gallou at The University of Nottingham.

The project has received funding from the Institute of Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP), The University of Nottingham and the British School of at Athens but it is still £10,000 short of the amount needed to carry out the main archaeological survey.

Four annual fieldwork seasons are planned. This May and June the team will carry out a full underwater survey. Between 2010 and 2012 there will be three seasons of underwater excavations. After a study season in 2013 the findings of Dr Henderson's research will be published in 2014.

Provided by University of Nottingham (news : web)

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User comments : 12

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LuckyBrandon
2.3 / 5 (3) May 11, 2009
Man if I had the money I'd give it to them just to expand the science and understanding of the ancient greek culture which helped form so many of todays more successful societies.....
KBK
1 / 5 (9) May 11, 2009
Sumerian. Sumerian. Sumerian. It all came from Sumer. Ie, ancient IRAQ....Which we are JUST finding thing about NOW. We have over 500,000 cuneiform tablets from these areas...and some from notably earlier.

What they are showing, repeatedly, with no room for error in the conclusion!!!....is that mankind had contact with ALIEN astronauts back about 8-12,000 years ago.And that we have been genetically modified to the state we are in today..by those beings.

One of the prime reasons for going into Iraq..was to kill the dig sites and wreck the museum. The Museum was sacked to the max on the very night of the invasion, during the initial bombing. Now if that does not tell you something---I don't know what will.

All of the goodies that Saddam had found were wrecked or stolen, and all the dig sites where wrecked.

For example: 400 acre dig site..JUST outside of Baghdad. It was evolving into the BIGGEST, most IMPORTANT historical dig known to man, and likely to outstrip the importance of Egypt, period.


Suddenly..there is..just outside of Bagdhad..a 400 acre US base. Go fucking Figure.

Can't have mankind figuring out who they REALLY are, now, can we?

NOW, what the hell happened to the most important archeological digs known to man????? Riddle yourself that.

Not one more word has been heard about it.
Edylc
1 / 5 (9) May 11, 2009
I read about that all the time, the city of Uruk, where the Anunaki were, that's where the old technology is.
Supposedly they made us out of a mixture of the local species with their own DNA. Witch is why our chromosomes have two that are kind of "spliced" together (I don't know too much about DNA, but I've read in numerous places about what I just said). That's also where they would travel to their planet through what seems to be a "stargate" according to the ancient Sumerian writings. A "serpent rope" or a "doorway to heaven" Most people disregard this because of the movie and tv show, but they got the idea from all this ancient Sumerian history that I read all the time. So that argument doesn't work.
The only reason no one thinks this is real history is because their writings are extremely obvious evidence of aliens making us what we are today. So they just say "It was their myths". When it is very clearly fact. If you do enough research and have an open mind you will find it's hard not to see the truth behind their writings. I also agree one of the main reasons for being in Iraq where they are is to look for the city of Uruk and find the technology that's been unused for thousands of years.
LuckyBrandon
4 / 5 (6) May 11, 2009
lol

you guys are nuts...but its more plausible than the religious alternatives :D
OckhamsRazor
5 / 5 (3) May 11, 2009
If aliens had the ability to traverse vast, vast regions of space and live to explore what they came across, then they'd show themselves in far more obvious ways. With all that technology what would they fear from a bunch of primitive bipeds who (back then) were yet to venture beyond their own atmosphere? I don't believe it myself, but I agree with LuckyBrandon - it's far more logical than what most religions will tell you about our existence! At least there is a little science thrown in!

On topic though, I'm glad to see so many people actively concerned about the states of some of these types of ruins. Although it will be great to have it completely mapped and recorded, I still wonder if one day we'll be able to figure out how to keep the ruins themselves intact. But shouldn't they have the area around it sealed off from the public?
Edylc
4.5 / 5 (2) May 12, 2009
I wouldn't think they'd be scared. If anything I think they would have just said "screw these people".
I bet if all kinds of aliens knew about us they would probably not get involved. I wouldn't.
If you were an alien looking through "New
civilizations to potentially get involved with" magazine, and flipped to the earth page, you would most likely think "lets give them a few hundred more years".
Sorry for not actually discussing this article. Haha. It's easy to get carried away when it comes to aliens and all that jazz.
Everything I was saying before to me seems just as possible as any other theory, and I like it more, so what the hell.
Birger
5 / 5 (2) May 12, 2009
The important news is that the period is poorly understood because of extensive looting, and this town is almost like a bronze-age Pompeji. The settlement goes back to the time of "the house of tiles" at Lerna, at the earliest bronze age. The Mycaenean and Minoan civilizations did not evolve from a vacuum, there was a rich cultural tradition going back thousands of years before the palaces were built.
denijane
not rated yet May 12, 2009
I don't get how could they allow British scientist to examine the findings after all the damage they did in Malta.

Anyway, I'm also eager to see what they'll find. As for
Sumer-guys, we have read the same stuff, but there are much more curious parts of our past in other locations-India, Malta, Trakia, Japan. There is so much we don't know, I wouldn't be so convinced it all came from Sumer. There probably were more than one centres of ancient civilisation (maybe human, maybe not).
googleplex
3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2009
Why did this city site "sink" into the sea?
We know that sea levels did not rise significantly in the Mediterranean Sea during the last 5000 years. So presumably it was a calamitous geological shift in the bed rock of the town probably due to seismic activity. It is unlikely that the town would have been built in a sub-sea level valley that later flooded. The Greeks were very knowledgeable about water levels.
denijane
5 / 5 (2) May 13, 2009
"ruins date from at least 2800 BC" which mean they may be older as well. In any case, the Balkans are an earthquaking zone, so, it may have gone under the sea for many reasons.
Note-there are ruins under the Black Sea too.
LuckyBrandon
1 / 5 (1) May 13, 2009
denijane-dang good point...the foundation of the biblical flood myth...dang good point...
who knows, maybe this is the actual atlantis...lol

Paradox
5 / 5 (1) May 15, 2009
The last major glacial period ended about 10,000 years ago, So I imagine the sea levels were rising even before that.

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