More on the discovery of ancient military harbour used in Battle of Salamis


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The ancient harbour where the Greek fleet gathered on the eve of the Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. – a pivotal naval battle that prevented the invasion of Greece by the Persian Empire and largely determined the course of Greek and Western history – has now been uncovered by archaeologists in present-day Ambelakia Bay on the island. The Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) was given an exclusive tour of the site by the  archaeologists in charge of the dig, who revealed they expected more finds to emerge as the work continues.

More on the discovery of ancient military harbour used in Battle of Salamis
Photo Credit: ANA/Vassilis Mentogiannis

One of their goals is to find artifacts linked to the Battle of Salamis before 2020, which is the 2,500-year anniversary of the great naval battle that changed the course of history.

“The excavation is of great importance because there are a number of things that remain to be proven about the battle’s history, which we did not know until now. They are just written in ancient sources and nothing more. This research should have started many years ago but this was not possible because of the pollution in the seabed, given that there are a number of shipyards and ship repair units in the area. It was made possible, however, with the assistance of the Institute of Underwater Archaeological Research (IENAE),” the head of the Underwater Antiquities Ephorate Aggeliki Simosi told ANA. 

“We hope that in the coming years we will have the same success as this year, when we uncovered sections of very sturdy buildings that have not yet been fully identified. The existence of two towers, however, one round and one square, indicates that this was a fortified military harbour of the ancient city,” she added.

More on the discovery of ancient military harbour used in Battle of Salamis
Photo Credit: ANA/Vassilis Mentogiannis

Heading the dig for the IENAE, Ioannina University professor Dr. Yiannos Lolos noted that the three-year cooperation programme launched by the Ephorate and the Institute, with the participation of the Patras University’s Laboratory of Marine Geology and Physical Oceanography, will likely continue and possibly be extended.

“It is a major excavation now in its early stages. It will continue, however, now that the [Ephorate] and the [Institute] have decided to begin investigating this very significant historic location of Greece. There are, of course, several difficulties but the goals are important. And I am convinced that we will unearth portable finds along the way – we already have some important ones – that are linked to the very important events of Athenian history. And, of course, an event of tremendous importance is the naval battle in 480 B.C. – zero hour for Athenian and Greek history,” Lolos said.

He noted that the excavation was focused on the harbour of the ancient city of Salamis and parts of the sea on the north side and around the tip of the Kynosoura peninsula, which encircles the south side of the bay.

More on the discovery of ancient military harbour used in Battle of Salamis
Photo Credit: ANA/Vassilis Mentogiannis

“Also located at the end of Kynosoura was the Nike trophy, or probably one of the trophies, that we know were erected after the great victory of 480 B.C.” Lolos added. Like Simosi, he echoed his conviction that the sea at the end of the peninsula will yield parts of the ancient trophy.

“There are stone plinths in the sea that must be from the trophy. We know that the monument was at the tip of Kynosoura, we will investigate the sea on both sides of this section of the peninsula, the north and south, and believe we will find segments of it,” they told ANA.

The finds unearthed in Ambelakia Bay over the last two years include the two towers and a section of a wall measuring 162 metres long in the northwest, which appear to be linked to the defences of the Classical- and Hellenistic-era city and its port. Another sturdy structure made of well-formed stone plinths about 13 metres long, believed to be a public building such as a temple or stoa, has been found in the north side of the bay.

More on the discovery of ancient military harbour used in Battle of Salamis
Photo Credit: ANA/Vassilis Mentogiannis

There are also a number of portable remains dating to the time of the harbour’s last use, around the 3rd century AD, indicating that this structure was one of the last buildings of the ancient city near the port and possibly one seen and described by the traveller Pausanias in the 2nd century AD.

Lolos said the building was probably a temple, noting the numerous shards of statues found there, as well as a corner of a carved marble altar and other marble vessels. Further evidence, he said, was the earlier nearby find in 1882 of a marble pedestal for a statue with a dedicatory inscription, dating to the 4th century B.C. He noted that this was inscribed with the names of a cavalry chief and members of the cavalry, dedicated to the nymph Salamis.

According to Lolos, this was seen as an indication that there had been a sanctuary dedicated to the nymph nearby and, while the inscription was lost, it had been published in the German archaeological institute’s periodical in 1882.

More on the discovery of ancient military harbour used in Battle of Salamis
Photo Credit: ANA/Vassilis Mentogiannis

The building is adjacent to a more contemporary 48-metre pier that was built prior to 1900 using ancient materials. Similarities between the building materials in the pier and those of the more ancient structure lead archaeologists to believe that they came from the public building now being investigated.

In addition to the underwater excavation, there is continued geophysical research focusing on the interior section of the bay and up to Kynosoura, with the assistance of Patras university. The aim is to find and reconstruct an outline of the Classical-era coastline and paleogeography and locate “targets” of possible archaeological interest that may be on lying on the seabed or buried at depths of up to 1.5 metres.

“There has to be an excavation to identify these ‘targets’. Are they newer or ancient objects? It is very possible that some are ancient objects and we hope that some may be significant but a systematic exploration at such depths requires a lot of work. We have to decide, in collaboration with the geologists, which of the 50 targets to choose and where to begin,” Lolos said, noting that the cooperation started for three years but would need much longer, so any help would be useful.

More on the discovery of ancient military harbour used in Battle of Salamis
Photo Credit: ANA/Vassilis Mentogiannis

According to Simosi, meanwhile, “Chinese underwater archaeologists had shown great interest in the region when they visited Greece a few days earlier and expressed a desire for cooperation.

The results of the two research periods in the bay will be presented in a joing announcement by the two head researchers at an international conference organised by the Honor Frost Foundation in Nicosia, on October 20-24.

Source: ANA-MPA [September 13, 2017]




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