Mentor Shipwreck Revisited, July 2011

Maritime Archaeology, July 2011

The official press release regarding the July 2011 expedition (in Greek) from Greece’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism & Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities is here.

A summary is outlined below.

Monday August 8th, 2011

A team from Greece’s Department of Underwater Antiquities, under the direction of archaeologist Dr. Dimitris. Kourkoumelis conducted maritime archaeological excavations on the historic “Mentor” shipwreck in the South of Greece, just off the island of Kythera. The project took place from July 6th – 15th near the small port of Avlemonas.

Research was funded and assisted by an Australian Institute, the «Kytherian Research Group» with strong support of the Nicholas Anthony Aroney Trust and Kytherian Association of Australia.

The ship, was en-route to England, via Malta, carrying 17 crates of sculptures from the Parthenon. It struck difficulties and sank at the entrance of the port of Avlemonas, in North Eastern Kythera, in September 1802.

Earlier investigations into the wreck had been initiated by Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1975), the Institute of Underwater Archaeology (1980) and the Department of Underwater Antiquities (2009). None of them identified fragments of marble or sculptures that remained because of the salvage by sponge divers from Symi and Kalymnos in the early 1800′s.

This year’s survey focused on area of the stern, where in 2009, ballast stones (likely from the ship) were located, around which a number of objects, such as petrified fish fossils, which have since been presumed to be derived from the cargo.

From the area surveyed, a range of objects from vessel and 10 crew were found, such as different types of cookware, glass, ceramics, porcelain, bottles, decorative items, which are likely to have been from officers quarters. Coins of the period, two pistols, decorative metal from the butt of a musket, musket balls and bullets of three different calibres, musket flints, a small cannon ball, plus navigation equipment including a small hand compass with gold chain and a ship’s compass.

An important fact is that two ancient silver and one bronze coins were found between the ballast stones.

The results were particularly interesting and encouraging, because the ship was wrecked at a controversial time in the history of the Parthenon, and items recovered from the wreck are indicators of welfare of seafarers on merchant ships during a turbulent historical period of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Continued research may yield new information on the ship itself and the adventures of the Parthenon marbles.

The project was conducted by the Ephorate of Underwater of Antiquities in Greece, with assistance from the Kytherian Research Group (KRG) from Australia.

Major supporters were the Nicholas Anthony Aroney Trust and Kytherian Association of Australia. The project was made possible by financial assistance from both these organisations.

Wood from the hull was revealed during underwater excavations.

A range of artefacts from the ship and crew were recovered from around the cabin area of the wreck

Two pistols were recovered. This one is encrusted with fragments of wine bottles.

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