ARCHAEOLOGISTS have found a Roman wreck dating from the first century A.D. off Cape Greco towards the Protaras area, it emerged yesterday.
During late July and early August, a small international team of archaeologists and students undertook a brief season of underwater diving survey along the island’s east coast.
The project followed four seasons in and around Episkopi Bay on the south coast, and was financially and logistically supported by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, Texas A&M University, the University of Pennsylvania, and RPM Nautical Foundation, with the additional support of a research vessel and equipment from the Thetis Foundation of Limassol.
Three weeks were spent at sheltered inlets and dangerous promontories in the area of Cape Greco and north towards Protaras area, in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities in an effort to determine the area’s long-term maritime history in advance of eventually locating well-preserved shipwrecks, an announcement said.
“A total of six stone and metal anchors recorded through the area, testify to a long history from antiquity through at least the mediaeval period of merchants stopping at the numerous natural and manmade ports that dot these shores,” it added.
It said that among the more important findings was an extensive wreck site dating to the early imperial Roman era, around the 1st century AD, which carried a mixed cargo of several amphora types, predominantly jars from the southeast Aegean area.
“Though the wreck is in shallow to moderate waters and thus disturbed by the environment, the site can still be recognised as one of some importance for understanding the region’s maritime trade during the period of Cyprus’ early incorporation into the Roman Empire,” according to the statement.
Next year, the team plans returning to several large ceramic concentrations for more extensive documentation, as well as more intensive mapping of the early Roman wreck.
“The search for cultural material, including better preserved shipwrecks, will also be extended to the deeper sandy seabed, well suited to remote sensing techniques, especially sonar but potentially also magnetometry,” the statement said.
It said the area’s prominent maritime history was evident not only by the ceramic deposits recorded at ports, anchorages and promontories, but also through reports from local divers and specific events in the historical record.
According to Diodoros, it was somewhere in the area, where in 306BC the Macedonian Demetrios the Poliorketes triumphed over Ptolemy of Egypt in one of the largest naval engagements of antiquity.
Although Ptolemy eventually victoriously returned, thus controlling the island through the rest of the Hellenistic period, nearly a hundred warships were reported as sunk during the combat.
“Hence, the course of the survey of archaeologists working in deeper waters offshore, far from the coastline appears to be hopeful,” the archaeologists concluded.