(Dir.: J. Leidwanger)
The Ministry of Communications and Works, Department of Antiquities, announces the completion of an underwater diving survey campaign that was undertaken from mid-July to mid-August along the island’s southeast coast in the area of Cape Greco. The project is sponsored by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, with financial support from the University of Pennsylvania and RPM Nautical Foundation, as well as additional logistical support from the Thetis Foundation.
The project focused on the site of a Roman shipwreck discovered in 2007, completing a non-intrusive preliminary map of surface remains to determine the extent of the site, its preservation, as well as the full character and composition of the cargo. The ship, dating to the first decades of the 2nd century AD, appears to have been carrying a mixed cargo of liquids, likely wine but perhaps also oil, in over 130 ceramic jars, or amphoras.
Most of the assemblage is composed of jars from southeastern Asia Minor and the general northeast Mediterranean region. Another group of amphoras, however, appears to have contained wine imported from the Mediterranean coast of France. A few non-cargo items discovered on the site were likely used for storage and preparation of food, and may point to a galley and give clues to life onboard the merchant vessel, although no wood, anchor, or other ship fittings are visible on the surface scatter. Where the ship was heading remains unclear, but its location in shallow waters, and the Roman presence in the area of Cape Greco and further north at sites like Lefkolla, suggest that either the vessel was nearing an intended port-of-call, or else was engaged in a coasting trade, moving products to market over short distances up and down the coast. Though scattered, the remains provide significant insight into the local, regional, and even long-distance commercial connections of this peaceful but prosperous Roman island.
Plans for future work in the area include a full shallow-water survey in the Cape Greco area, combined with a remote sensing search for better preserved sites in the deeper sandy seabed farther offshore. The Cape Greco area’s prominent maritime history is testified not only by the shipwrecks, anchors, and other finds recorded so far along the coast, but also by reports from local divers and specific events in the historical record. According to Diodoros, it was at somewhere just north of here that in 306 B.C. the Macedonian Demetrios Poliorketes triumphed over Ptolemy of Egypt in one of the largest naval engagements of antiquity. Although Ptolemy eventually returned, proved victorious, and controlled the island through the rest of the Hellenistic period, nearly one hundred warships reported as sunk during the combat provide another hopeful target for archaeologists working in deeper waters offshore.
Divers record the Roman shipwreck's remains
near one end of the scattered site.