The small Fourni archipelago is just 17 square miles large but is hailed as the ancient shipwreck capital of the world thanks to the discovery of 22 shipwrecks in the area. Underwater archeologists are excited by the secrets hidden around the collection of 13 isllands and islets between the eastern Aegean Islands of Samos and Ikaria.
Ships traveled from the Greek mainland to Asia Minor via this passage, whereas others left the Aegean for the Levant through Fourni, the safest place that ships could dock in the region.
The underwater archeologists who began an expedition in the area were surprised by their findings in the region. Shipwrecks were found literally everywhere, with over half of them dating to the Late Roman Period around 300 to 600 AD, however others span from the Archaic Period (700-480BC), Classical Period (480-323 BC) and the Hellenistic Period (323-31BC). In fact shipwrecks span all the way to the Late Medieval Period (16th century).
Experts weren’t just astonished by the number of shipwrecks spanning through the centuries but they were also amazed by the diversity of the cargoes, some found for the first time. The shipwrecks reveal the secrets of long distance trade routes between the Black Sea, Aegean Sea, Cyprus, the Levant and Egypt throughout the ages. At least three ships had a cargo of amphoras (jars) that had not been found in previous shipwrecks.
Underwater archeologists from the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and RPM Nautical Foundation working with local sponge divers, fishermen and free divers looked through the wrecks. Experts mapped each shipwreck using photogrammetry to create 3D site plans. Representative artifacts were gathered from each site for scientific analysis.
Experts say that it is more likely that the large number of wrecks is indicative of the large amount of traffic passing through the area rather than the area being unsafe. They estimate that there was around one wreck per century, usually due to a sudden storm or technical failure on the ship.