Revolutionary underwater archaeology equipments might reveal the secrets of the world’s oldest submerged town.
Lying under three to four meters of water just off the coast of Southern Laconia, in Greece, the ancient town of Pavlopetri dates back to 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 Bronze Age phase of Greece provides the historical setting for much Ancient Greek literature and myth, including Homer’s Age of Heroes.
Despite its potential international importance, no work has been carried out at the site since it was first mapped in 1968. 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.
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.
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.
A detailed millimeter accurate digital underwater survey of the site using an acoustic scanner developed by a major North American offshore engineering company will allow production of photo-realistic, three dimensional digital surveys of seabed features and underwater structures to sub-millimeter 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.”
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.