A remarkably preserved shipwreck on the northern coast of the Greek island Aloneissos has become a remarkable new underwater museum.
The ship has played a major role in the way archeologists understand the art of shipbuilding in antiquity.
Greece’s rich maritime heritage has long been hidden from public view, accessible to a select few, primarily archaeologists. Scuba diving was banned in Greece until 2005 – with the exception of a few specific places- for the fear that divers may loot the many antiquities that still lie on the seabed.
To this day ancient shipwrecks and even modern ones are still off-limits to the public.
There is now a new project created to open these shipwrecks as underwater museum. Divers will be able to tour certain wreck sites and non-divers will be able to experience the underwater sites through virtual reality in information centres on land.
The first of these sites is known as the Peristera shipwreck. Discovered in the early 1990s, the cargo ship was laden with thousands of amphoras that probably contained wine, when it sank in the late 5th century BCE.
The ship is the largest ship of its time to have been found and is of major significance to historians.
The beauty of the wreck also lies in the fact that many fish, sponges and other sea creatures have made the amphoras their homes. The cargo of the wreck was so numerous that if towers able the divers as the pass along the perimeter of the wreck.
To date, only part of the wreck has been excavated, experts have yet to determine how or why it sank or what other artefacts might lie beneath the estimate 4,000 amphoras. Sections of the ship indicate that a fire had broken out on board, but it is still unclear if this contributed to its sinking.
Three other underwater sites located in central Greece are also included in the new underwater museum project. The project is part of a European Commission-funded BlueMed program, which also plans to expand into Italy and Croatia. It is hoped these additional sites will be opened by 2021.