Race to preserve the world's oldest submerged town
The oldest submerged town in the world is about to give up its secrets — with the help of equipment that could revolutionise underwater archaeology.
The ancient town of Pavlopetri lies in three to four metres of water just off the coast of southern Laconia in Greece. The ruins date from 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.
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.
Despite its potential international importance no work has been carried out at the site since it was first mapped in 1968 and Dr Henderson has had to get special permission from the Greek government to examine the submerged town.
Although Mycenaean power was largely based on their control of the sea, little is known about the workings of the harbour towns of the period as archaeology to date has focused on the better known inland palaces and citadels.
Pavlopetri was presumably once a thriving harbour town where the inhabitants conducted local and long distance trade throughout the Mediterranean — its sandy and well-protected bay would have been ideal for beaching Bronze Age ships.
As such the site offers major new insights into the workings of Mycenaean society.