AN ancient merchant boat that sunk near Cape Greco in the 2nd century A.D. may have been trying to dock at nearby coastal settlements mentioned by the Roman geographer Strabo which are still to be located, Cypriot archaeologists say.
Announcing the end of this year’s survey of the island’s eastern coastline including an undersea investigation off the Cape Greco area and Protaras to the north, the Antiquities Department said they based their theory on the fact that the wreck lay in shallow waters.
Strabo names one of the undiscovered settlements as Levkolla.
The wreck, discovered only in 2007, was investigated and its site established during the four-week programme. Pottery fragments representative of its cargo have also been collected which will be replaced after examination.
The programme is jointly funded by the Nautical Archaeology Institute of Texas A&M University, the University of Pennsylvania and the RPM Nautical Foundation, as well as the Thetis Foundation.
According to the Department of Antiquities the ship appeared to carry cargo in three types of amphorae, mainly from south Asia Minor and imported ones from the Mediterranean coasts of France or replicas of them.
A smaller number of amphorae are of unknown provenance but could originate in Cyprus or neighbouring coasts.
Traces of a thick layer of resin discovered at the bottom of some of the amphorae indicate that they might have contained wine. Sherds from other types of ceramics were also discovered but no anchors of other components of the ship were found.
Although the cargo was scattered around it provided important information both regarding commerce with far away destinations and local trade in that quiet district of the Roman Empire.
The fated vessel was either trying to unload its cargo at the coastal settlements or was sailing along the shore.
The next task is to map the wreck as well as the pottery seen on the surface. The search would also continue for other wrecks in deeper waters using special equipment.
Local divers confirm ancient sources such as Diodoros who wrote that Demetrios the Conqueror defeated the Ptolemy of Egypt at a sea battle in the area in 306 BC. Although Ptolemy lost about a hundred warships he returned to capture Cyprus.