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Underwater Survey in the southern Euboean Gulf
Author Giorgos Koutsouflakis
Translated by Lucie Vidličková
Edited by Kristian L. Lorenzo

Purpose and objectives of the survey:

Every archaeological research project is defined and delineated by its goals. Survey in the Southern Euboea gulf has clear advantages, since it is not far away from Athens and from archaeological point of view, the sea in this gulf represents uncharted waters (mare incognitum). Previous archaeological surveys in this region were of limited scope and duration, mostly attributable to individuals making random, accidental discoveries or during the course of small- or large-scale construction works. These discoveries did not always lead to comprehensive scientific recording of the archaeological finds, and thus the irreplaceable data contained within such discoveries were lost forever.

An overall calculation of the archaeological sites and artifacts raised from the Southern Euboean Gulf remains problematic, due to the lack of published data. Nevertheless, some significant works of art such as ‘The Ephebe of Marathon’, one of the earliest discoveries recovered from the sea in the region (Rhomaios 1924-1925, 145-87), are well-known.

In more recent years, after the foundation of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities in 1976 the following wrecks have been briefly investigated:


Along with these initial investigations, two underwater surveys in the area of Marathon-St. Marina-Ramnounta were also undertaken. The first one: French divers conducted survey in the summer of 1950 (Demangel 1950; Braemer & Marcadé 1953). This was the only research project which has so far recorded and documented underwater antiquities spread over a wide area. The second survey: the French oceanographer and cinematographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture (Proskynetopoulou 2007, 103) carried out in 1976. The main aim of this survey was the search for a specific shipwreck, so it did not pay extra attention to individual or grouped finds discovered during its research.

In addition to our knowledge of these early investigations, we also possess information from the traditional collection of archaeological antiquities.  Unfortunately, this information does not include proper documentation concerning the origins of the artifacts (Hoffmann 1971, Nos. 206-207; Parker 1992, 366; Rhomaios 1924-25, 147).

The main problem with underwater archaeological sites in the southern Euboean Gulf is twofold: qualitative and quantitative. The former because even the recorded sites which have attracted further investigation are poorly documented. The latter because the confirmed information we have concerning ancient shipwrecks in this area is insufficient in number. For these reasons, our level of knowledge concerning shipwrecks and cargoes in the southern Euboean Gulf did not provide us with a solid background to depend upon, when the survey began in 2006.

Unlike past research initiatives, the purpose of EUA and HIMA’s survey was neither a thorough investigation of a specific wreck or cargo, nor the search for shipwrecks of a particular period. The preexisting conditions and research history of the area set EUA and HIMA’s survey priorities: first the need for archaeological investigation and subsequent mapping of a wide area in macroscopic detail. By the term macroscopic we mean the investigation of a large area in order to identify large optical and sonar targets, such as an ancient wreck site or cargo of amphorae. The challenge was to illuminate a general understanding of the distribution of shipwrecks and cargoes in the selected area. When this goal is achieved and our samples of archaeological sites are both sufficient in number and representative in their state of preservation, then we will be able to define the right scientific questions and continue the investigation of select historically significant shipwrecks.

The northern Euboean Gulf is an oblong and quite shallow body of water, which separates Attica and eastern Boeotia from Euboea. This gulf can be divided geographically into two areas: the inner South Euboea, which extends from the city of Chalkida to the strait of the Kavalliani Island, and the outer Euboea, which extends from this strait to Kafireas and the southern tip of Sounion.

These two marine areas meet in a narrow passage dominated by Kavalliani Island in the north, at the entrance of Almyropotamos bay, the four small islets of Verdougi in the west, and the complex of islands of Styra in the east. We conducted surveys in the areas of Kynosoura of Marathon, the northern coast of Attica from Ramnous to the islets of Verdougi, the strait of Kavalliani, the islet of Fonias and the whole western side of the Styronisi. We also surveyed the islets of Agios Andreas and Petousi, Cape Strongylo in Euboea, the northern side of Marmari bay, from Portolafia to Cape Vigla, and the island complex of Petalioi.

We based our decision to undertake research in the above areas on the following criteria:

  1. A sufficient amount of reliable information concerning the existence of underwater antiquities
  2. The presence of dangerous places for navigation with obvious as well as less apparent reefs
  3. The presence of mooring locations in areas of high risk sailing
  4. The existence of toponyms, directly or indirectly related to areas of dangerous navigation or maritime tragedies (Drakonera, Fonias, Pnigmenos, Mavros Kavos etc.)


The team, which at the height of the research totaled thirty-six people, consisted mainly of scientists who are members of HIMA and professional divers from EUA, as well as people of different specialties: diving archaeologists, technical divers, architects, topographers, technicians, underwater photographers, conservators, etc.  In four seasons (13-18/6/2006, 4-26/7/2007, 1-15/7/2008 and 18/6-21/7/2010), the team, often working under extremely difficult conditions, covered sixty-five percent of the selected survey area, recording and documenting in this short period nineteen new archaeological sites, fifteen of which represent ancient wrecks or their preserved cargoes.

The methodology which we followed during our investigation of the selected areas relied upon visual inspection accompanied by simultaneous coastal research. Using this methodology we covered the first zone from the surface down to 45 m depth. Visual inspection was macroscopic in scale and focused on the identification of larger finds visible to the naked eye (ceramic concentrations, amphorae, anchors, etc.). In some cases, when an area raised significant interest, visual inspection was extended to deeper zones up to 60 m in depth, while in several cases microscopic inspection of the sea-bottom was undertaken with the aim to locate antiquities of smaller size.

During the first season an estimated 60-65 percent of the research area was covered, corresponding with the coastline, in total seventeen nautical miles long. In the areas investigated, we identified and documented a total of fifteen ancient and Byzantine shipwrecks including two from the Classical period (Kynosoura of Marathon), four from the Hellenistic (Styra, Petalioi) and two from the Byzantine period (Portolafia, Kavalliani Island). Two of the fifteen wrecks discovered cannot be dated with certainty, because their cargoes, which consist of roof tiles, did not yield diagnostic ceramics able to be dated accurately.

A current synopsis of finds located in the Southern Euboean Gulf:


This complex consists of seven islands (Styra or Megalo, Agios Andreas, Petousi, Fonias, Mikro and Megalo Kouneli, and Glaros). In antiquity, these islands most probably belonged to the territory of the city of Styra. The island of Styra, the complex’s largest one, is most probably identical with ancient Aigileia, which Herodotus (VI, 107) mentions.


A late Roman shipwreck near the island of Agios Andreas:

This shipwreck was located during the 2006 season on the southern side of the islet of Agios Andreas, thanks to information given to us by G. Eustratiou, a diving instructor. The site is clearly disturbed and composed of a big mass of concreted ceramics.  The main concentration is at a depth of 9-17 m and occupies an area of approximately 600 m2. Outside the main concentration of the cargo, several finds in proximity to the main mass of amphorae were identified at a maximum depth of 35 m.  The shipwreck’s cargo was represented by the amphora type known in scholarship as Late Roman 2, mostly used for the transport of oil. This type of amphora was made at many production centers in the Eastern Mediterranean and thus it is not easy to identify a more exact provenance for the cargo. Nevertheless, their typology and an incised inscription on one of the raised samples dates the cargo with certainty to the 6th century A.D.

Roman period shipwreck near the islet of Petousi:

This shipwreck was located on the western side of the islet of Petousi lying on the sandy bottom at a depth of 25 m. It was discovered thanks to information provided by G. Eustratiou, a diving instructor. The cargo consisted of identical Tripolitanian amphorae, ranging in date between the 2nd and 4th centuries A.D. The cargo’s distribution follows one direct ca. 45 m long line on the sea floor parallel with the coastline.

The wreck suffered multiple obvious disturbances due to previous visits, and it is clear that a large part of its cargo was removed in recent years. Nevertheless, there is evidence that part of the cargo probably still survives under sandy deposits. The Tripolitanian type of amphora was produced in Northern Africa (Tunisia, Libya) and mostly intended for transporting oil. Although they appear in huge numbers in the western Mediterranean, particularly in Italy, France and Spain, they are almost completely absent in stratigraphic layers in Greek cities, and their presence here in a cargo located in the Aegean is a unique find.


Shipwreck with a cargo of tiles off the island of Styra:

A small shipwreck was located on the SE side of the Styra Island at a depth of 12-17 m.  It was lying on the sandy rocky sea bottom. The distribution of the wreck’s cargo of Laconian Type 2 tiles is centralized in two small concreted groups in an area of only 80 square m. During the study of the scattered material it became clear that the shipwreck was of a small size, probably not bigger than 7-8 m in length, and was used for short distance voyages in the area of Southern Euboea.


In several instances, these tiles still retained their original arrangement. The dimensions of the tiles (98 x 50 cm) are standard and comparable with the size of the tiles described by ancient writers (e.g. Vitruvius) and recovered during terrestrial excavations in Attica.

The raised samples provided no data for a more accurate dating. Surface investigation of the shipwreck did not yield any plain ceramics. A fragment of an amphora collected approximately 20 m from the wreck can be classified as Classical in date; nevertheless, a connection between this single find and the wreck’s cargo cannot be ascertained with any degree of certainty.


Hellenistic shipwreck off the Styra island (shallower):

This shipwreck was located in 2007 to the north of the channel between the island of Styra and the islet of Agios Andreas.  It sits on a mixed bottom consisting of sand and rocky features at a depth of 8-17 m. The cargo is indicative of a large amphora carrier. The main feature of the wreck is its widely scattered cargo extending over an 80 m long area parallel with the coast. The largest part of the preserved cargo was concreted in huge concentrations on the sea floor.

Samples of the cargo yielded two amphora types- Coan and Cnidian, both of which transported oil. Some of the Cnidian amphorae were stamped. Based on a typological study of the raised samples, the wreck can be dated from the end of the 3rd to the first half of the 2nd century B.C.


Hellenistic shipwreck off the Styra island (deeper):


Located in 2007, this wreck is on the north side of the island of Styra at a depth of 42-47 m. The suggestions of Th. Stamos and M. Golipour led to its discovery. It is to this day the only wreck discovered in the Southern Euboean Gulf still in relatively good condition. The shipwreck is indicated by one large concentration of intact or broken amphorae covering an area of ca. 120 m² and lying on the sandy bottom. Ninety percent of the cargo consists of Brindisi amphorae. These amphorae are probably of Roman origin, with production centers located in the area of Lecce, Italy. They are distributed  extensively over both the Italian peninsula and the Adriatic. There is some discussion about the existence of a production center in the northern Peloponnesos. Evidence for their distribution in the Aegean is relatively limited and appears in quite small quantities in stratigraphic layers excavated at Athens and Delos. Examples of this type of amphorae also reached the agora of Thessaloniki, while several were found in the area of Karystia, Thebes and Sicyon.

Two samples of Coan or pseudo-Coan amphorae were also found in the cargo. Based on the amphorae the shipwreck is dated from the end of the 2nd to the first half of the 1st century B.C.

The same wreck also produced plain ceramics, two handled skyphoi, one copper tripod jug, and perhaps more important a small scrap of a life-size bronze statue. This statue fragment may be evidence that the wreck was also transporting either works of art or scrap metal for reuse. It would be very attractive to associate it with salvage operations in this area, which brought to light works of art such as the Ephebe of Marathon, which came from a not yet closely identified area of Southern Euboea.


B) Portolafia

Late Byzantine shipwreck:


This shipwreck was discovered in 2006 near the western cape of Portolafia Bay in Euboea at a depth of 16-37 m. Its cargo consists of Byzantine transport amphorae dated to the 12th to 13th century A.D. These amphorae were found scattered over the rocky sloping terrain of the sea bottom at a depth of 16 to 24 m. Isolated finds were identified as well on the sandy bottom. It is a reasonable assumption that at least a small part of the cargo of amphorae is preserved under the sand.

The cargo of the shipwreck was disturbed by previous illegal visits, and there is reason to believe that a large number of the amphorae were removed from the site. Amphorae of this type were identified as identical with amphorae discovered in the Northern Sporades and in Pagasitikos, but they are generally absent from eastern Aegean wrecks. Their production centers were located in the wider area of Constantinople.


Roman shipwreck:

A second wreck in the area of Portolafia Bay was discovered at a distance of 50 m from the Byzantine shipwreck mentioned above. G. Eustratiou provided the information which led to its discovery. Just like the adjacent shipwreck, it was extremely disturbed and scattered over a wide area. Amphorae from its cargo were discovered as far as 250 m from the main concentration, which was located at a depth of 18-28 m. This concentration consists of identical amphorae of a rare type only produced in the Black Sea area.

These amphorae are dated to between the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. This is the first time that they have been found at an Aegean wreck site. Scholars who have studied similar material from sites in the Crimea and Romania believe that these amphorae represent the first stage in the development of certain amphorae, which, two centuries later, would evolve into Late Roman Type 2.


C) Kynosoura of Marathon


Classical Shipwreck:

This wreck was discovered at a small distance from the coast at a depth of 5 m in 2007. The ceramics in the cargo consist of transport amphorae too poorly preserved to be identified. One intact lamp brought up from the cargo’s main concentration dates to the 5th century B.C. This wreck is probably identical with the one the French team identified during their research in 1950.


Classical Shipwreck:

The Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities knew of this wreck already in 1990, when Th. Stamou, a diver, announced it. Located at a depth of 8-16 m, it consists of two main concentrations of concreted amphorae, which are parallel to the coastline and lie on the rocky bottom. The two deposits of the cargo are 8-10 m distant from each other. Scattered material was discovered all around these two deposits, as well as under the sand layer.

From the fragmentary samples brought to the surface, there are indications that the amphorae could date to the 4th century B.C., and most probably originated in the Corinth, nevertheless this interpretation is not secure.


D) Island of Kavalliani


Late Byzantine shipwreck:

An important find was made in the 2008 season when a Byzantine wreck was discovered near the island of Kavalliani. The area in which the wreck rests has suffered extensive looting. Its cargo consists of glazed plates and phialae. The location of the shipwreck in the Mavro Kavo of Kavalliani to the north of a dangerous reef, which extends to the channel of Kavalliani of Euboea, was discovered thanks to information provided by I. Panagos, a professional diver.

The wreck is located at a depth of 12-20 m and sits on a sandy bottom. The biggest part of the visible material was removed. Nevertheless, intact plates were discovered under the sand. These plates are known in the scholarship as “Late Sgraffito Ware,” and date to the late 12th or early 13th century A.D. They show strong similarities with plates from a wreck of the same period discovered near Kastellorizo.


E) Islet of Demakos


Roman Shipwreck:

North-east of Kavalliani, near the islet of Demakos another wreck carrying amphorae was located, thanks to the information of Th. Stamou. This cargo contains North African amphorae, which range in date from the 2nd to the 4th century A.D. The shipwreck lies on a rocky sandy bottom at a depth of 17-28 m. The cargo is scattered with clear signs of disturbance. Three different types of amphorae with different sizes were identified, all of them from North Africa (Tunisia, Libya). This is the second wreck carrying a cargo of North African origin located near South Euboea.


F) Petalioi

During the 2010 season, the survey concentrated on the area of the Petalioi island complex, which consists of the islets of Megalo, Xero, Lamberousa, Tragonisi, Makronisi, Avgo, Founti, Louloudi and Praso. Near the islet of Tragonisi three deposits of ceramics were located, all of which can be associated either with shipwreck sites or with amphorae thrown out from an ancient wreck. Two deposits consisting of transport amphorae belong to the Hellenistic and Roman period. The third consists of roof tiles. These tiles have not yet been dated because no ceramics were found with them; nevertheless, the roof tiles are similar in shape and dimensions to those discovered off the island of Styra.




Argyri, X., Koutsouflakis, G., in press: ‘South Euboean Gulf Survey: Results of the Campaigns 2006-2008’, in Tropis 10, Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium on Ship Construction in Antiquity, Hydra, 2008 , ed. Ch. Tzalas, Hellenic Institute for the of Nautical Tradition.

Braemer, Fr., Marcadé, J., 1953: ‘Céramique antique et pièces d’ acres trouvées en mer a la pointe de la Kynosoura (Baie de Marathon), BCH 77, 139-154.

Delaporta, C., in press: ‘Recent finds in underwater archaeology by the Department of Underwater Antiquities of Greece’, in Tropis 8, Proceedings of the 8th International Symposium on Ship Construction in Antiquity, Hydra, 2002, ed. Ch. Tzalas, Hellenic Institute of Nautical Tradition.

Hoffmann, H., 1971: Ten Centuries that shaped the West. Greek and Roman Art in Texas Collections, Mainz.

Kazianes, D., 1999: ‘Υποδε?ξεις αρχα?ων ναυαγ?ων’, ΑΔ 49 (1994), Χρονικ?, Β?2, 856.

Koutsouflakis, G., Argyri, X., in press: ‘Υποβρ?χια Αναγνωριστικ? ?ρευνα στον Ν?τιο Ευβο?κ?. Α? Ερευνητικ? Περ?οδος 2006-2008’, in the Proceedings of the Conference at The 3rd Conference on the Archaeology of Thessaly and Central Greece. Organized by the University of Thessaly. Volos, 2009.

Koutsouflakis, G., Kourkoumelis, D., 2006: ‘Ναυ?γιο ?στερης αρχα?κ?ς περι?δου στο Ν?τιο Ευβο?κ?’, ΑΑΑ 39, 83-104.

Michali, M., Papadopoulou, Chr., Sapountzis, I., in press: ‘Α 2nd century BC shipwreck off the island of Styra, in the Southern Euboean Gulf: A preliminary report’, in Tropis 10, Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium on Ship Construction in Antiquity, Hydra, 2008, ed. Ch. Tzalas, Hellenic Institute for the Nautical Tradition.

Papathanassopoulos, G., 1980: ‘Greece. Underwater surveys in 1979’, IJNA 9.2, 164 – 167.

Parker, A.J., 1992: Ancient Shipwrecks of the Mediterranean and the Roman Provinces, BAR International Series 580, Oxford.

Proskynetopoulou, R., 2007: No. 16, 100-103, in Ν. Καλτσ? – Γ. Δεσπ?νη (επιμ.), Πραξιτ?λης (Κατ?λογος ?κθεσης στο Εθνικ? Αρχαιολογικ? Μουσε?ο, 25.7 – 31.10.2007), Αθ?να.

Rhomaios, Κ., 1924-1925: ‘Ο ?φηβος του Μαραθ?νος’, ΑΔ 9, 145-187.


Greek periodicals- abbreviations:

ΑΔ- Αρχαιολογικ?ν Δελτ?ον

ΑΑΑ- Αρχαιολογικ? Αν?λεκτα εξ Αθην?ν

Non-Greek periodicals- abbreviations:

BCH- Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique

IJNA- International Journal of Nautical Archaeology