Underwater archaeologists were surprised to find eight sunken ships from the Roman Empire off the coast of the Greek island of Naxos. The 2,000-year-old shipwrecks were found in depths of less than 100 feet – which is surprising since those waters are “crystal clear” and a popular tourist attraction.
Archaeologists had been searching Naxos for something else: a harbor once linked to a Byzantine settlement that may once have been the island’s capital. To their surprise, a local diver took them to two nearby reefs, one revealing a variety of amphorae – some ancient storage containers – and anchors, and the other containing three shipwrecks.
In ancient times, Naxos was known for high-quality marble exports. During the Byzantine period, the southern harbor of Parnamos became the primary one, and it was that harbor that the researchers had been trying to find when they first arrived. The underwater region off Naxos’ southern coast has remained an isolated one, meaning it’s relatively undisturbed and ideal for this kind of scientific exploration. After finding the first four ships, the researchers continued the work with sonar, upon which they discovered an additional four ships with amphorae of their own.
The vessels would have been loaded with anything profitable enough to justify a long and dangerous sea journey. In addition to passengers, that likely meant goods like olive oil and wine, which would have been the purpose of some of the amphorae, as well as armor. Divers also discovered construction materials like brick and roof tiles, as well as a small stone palette that they believe was used to blend cosmetics.
The relics from the first group of four ships appear to date from the Hellenistic period in the 3rd century B.C. through the Late Roman Period, up to around 600 A.D. The ships from the second group haven’t been studied yet, but it’s possible that molecular analysis of the clay from the amphorae could help the researchers pinpoint where they were made. Here more pictures of the unexpected find:
— Philippe Bohstrom (@PhilippeBostrom) December 18, 2017
— Philippe Bohstrom (@PhilippeBostrom) December 17, 2017
Other treasures likely await.