Treasure Trove of 2,000-Year-Old Ancient Shipwrecks Found Near Greek Island

The underwater archaeological expedition also saw divers recover a huge granite anchor post, lifted from a depth of 45 meters and weighing 400 kg.

A sensational discovery has been made by divers who have identified at least five shipwrecks dating back to around 2,000 years near the small Greek island of Levitha.

The underwater archeological discovery has revealed that the ancient ships were loaded with amphorae in which presumably there was once oil or wine.

According to the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, most of these amphorae came from the cities of Knidos, Kos, Rhodes, Phoenicia, and Carthage, and belong to the third century before our era, when the Ptolemaic and Antigonid dynasties ruled maritime commerce in the Aegean.

In addition to discovering the shipwrecks loaded with merchandise, the divers also came across a huge granite anchor post, lifted from a depth of 45 meters and weighing 400 kg.

A diver holding an amphora. Image Credit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.
A diver holding an amphora. Image Credit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.

It probably dates back to the 1st century B.C. and it is the largest stone pillar of the archaic period to date found in the Aegean. “The ship that should have needed an anchor of these dimensions should definitely have been colossal,” the ministry said in a statement.

The divers found these remains during an exploration that lasted from June 15 to 29, under the direction of archaeologist George Koutsouflakis. The island on whose coast the recent findings were made, Levitha , is the easternmost of a group of four isolated islands (Levitha , Mavria, Glaros and Chinaros) that link the sea passage from the Cyclades to the Dodecanese at the height of parallel 37 between Leros and Amorgos.

The island of Levitha is mentioned in two of Ovid’s works Ars Amatoria and the Metamorphoses in connection with the saga of Daedalus and Icarus. While escaping from Crete, Daedalus and Icarus flew over Lebinthus.

 

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The underwater investigation will be extended over a period of three years (2019-2021) with the objective of identifying and documenting ancient shipwrecks in the coastal area of the island complex, which seems to have played a key role in ancient navigation.

An intact amphorae being returned to the surface by a diver. Image Credit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.
An intact amphora being returned to the surface by a diver. Image Credit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.

The current investigation was limited mainly to the south and west coasts of the island of Levitha.

According to reports, a total of 57 group dives were carried out with 92 hours of work on the seabed and approximately 30% of the 35 km of coastline on the island was covered.

Traces of eight shipwrecks were found in total, dating mainly from the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

In addition to the remains, several individual findings, in particular, ceramic fragments and anchors, documented a continuous use of this sea route from the archaic period to the Ottoman period.