Persian Wars Shipwreck Survey

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Sunday, June 1, 2003 to Thursday, August 31, 2006

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The principal goal of the PWSS was to locate one or more of the shipwrecks described by Herodotos in the Persian invasion of Greece in 479 B.C. in order to better understand naval ships of this period. The naval actions of the Persian war rank among the greatest of maritime ventures of the ancient world, both in terms of the large scale of the operations and the historical significance of the outcome to Greece in particular, and to Western Civilization in general. Under the Achaemenid kings Darius and Xerxes, the Persians sent armadas of warships into the northern and western Aegean in the confident expectation of adding mainland Greece to their ever-expanding empire.

The Persian War Shipwreck Survey is a joint project (synergasia) of CAIA, the Ephoreia of Underwater Antiquities (EEA) and the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR). The aims of the project are to locate, map and record shipwrecks, their cargoes, and related artifacts in areas where historical sources indicate that large fleets sank due to weather or battles during the Persian War, from the waters around Mount Athos to the Magnesian coast (the waters southeast of Mount Pelion), Cape Artemision, the “Hollows” of Euboea, and the straits of Salamis. The first two seasons (2003-2004) concentrated on the Mount. Athos area, where according to Herodotus a Persian fleet sent by Darius was destroyed by a north wind while trying to round the peninsula in 493 or 492 B.C. The expedition discovered the remains of several shipwrecks dating from the late fifth century B.C. to modern times as indicated by groups of amphoras and other artifacts on the seabed. In 1999 fishermen raised two Corinthian-type helmets off the southern coast of Mt. Athos. In the course of the 2003 survey, Mrs. Dellaporta, Director of the EEA, contacted one of the fishermen, Mr. Georgios Sakkalis, who agreed to come aboard the R/V Aegaeo and to show the team the location from where the helmets had been raised. A remote operated vehicle sent to explore the seabed there found a half-buried amphora and then nearby it a jar at a depth of 97 meters. The latter served as the home of an octopus that had packed it with seabed detritus, including a bronze object. When raised to the surface this object proved to be a spear butt spike (Gk. sauroter) with remains of the wooden shaft still contained within its socket. In Archaic and Classical times, spearheads were leaf-shaped and made of iron:while a pyramidal spike capped the bottom end of the spear shaft. This was made of bronze so that it would not rust when stuck in the ground. The sauroter normally served as a secondary weapon point in battle and could be used as primary point if the spear broke during combat. Cleaning has revealed that the sauroter has a series of bands decorating its socket. Similar examples dedicated as ex-votos have been found at Olympia. During the 2004 season the research team discovered a number of wreck sites identified by groupings of amphoras as well as wrecks dating to the last few centuries. The expedition also continued the examination of sidescan sonar anomalies on the eastern coast of Athos, but no artifacts were sighted here.



Kennell, Stefanie. 2005. "The Fieldwork of the Canadian Institute in Greece, 2004. " Mouseion 5.3:  287-301.

Kennell, Stefanie. 2004. "The Fieldwork of the Canadian Institute in Greece, 2003. " Mouseion 4.3:  331-344.

Rupp, David. 2007. "The Fieldwork of the Canadian Institute in Greece, 2006." Mouseion 7.2: 131-153.

Rupp, David. 2006. "The Fieldwork of the Canadian Institute in Greece, 2005." Mouseion 6.2:  203-218.

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