In 1962, Nikos Tsouchlos located the remains of a cargo of clay pots on the seabed close to Iria Point on the south coast of the Argolid, just 15 meters from the rocky coastline and at a depth of 12 to 27 meters. His attention was drawn in particular by an intact large storage jar, or pithos, which later disappeared, and various other pots and fragments half buried in the sandy seabed.
Preliminary dives were carried out in the area of the wreck in 1971, 1974 and 1990. A systematic survey was carried out by HIMA over four seasons of excavations from 1991 to 1994. The venture was funded principally by the A.G. Levendis Foundation and the Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP), and was the second large-scale survey to be conducted by the Institute for Marine Archaeology in the Aegean, after that of the Early-Helladic shipwreck at the islet of Dokos near Hydra.
The excavation at Iria Point was directed by Haralambos Pennas and fellow archaeologists Yannis Vichos, Christos Agouridis and Dimitris Kourkoumelis, while the lead diver was Phaidon Antonopoulos. The study of the remains of the ceramic cargo was led by Yannos Lolos, and overall coordination of the project was led by Nikos Tsouchlos, then chairman of HIMA.
On the basis of the findings of the excavation, the cargo belonged to a ship whose length was probably no more than 10 meters. The ship would have been constructed using the â??shell-firstâ? technique, in other words, the planks of wood comprising the shell of the hull were put in position first, and then the skeleton of the vessel was supplied. The cargo was comprised of clay pots of diverse origin, a frequent phenomenon in ancient shipwrecks. Twenty-five of these pots were preserved, and these presumably comprised the bulk of the cargo originating from various parts of the eastern Mediterranean, including storage jars (pithoi) from Cyprus, and amphoras from the Peloponnese and Crete, all designed for storing and transporting olive oil, wine and other commodities.
This wreck (dating to ca. 1200 BC), after those discovered off Cape Uluburun (of the late 14th c. BC) and Cape Chelidonion on the south coast of Turkey (of the late 13th c. BC), is the third Late Bronze Age wreck in the Mediterranean to have been systematically investigated. The ceramic ware of the Iria wreck provides us with valuable evidence regarding the movement of goods in the region of the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the 13th century BC. The cargo ship wrecked off Iria was probably traveling from Cyprus to the Argolid in the Peloponnese, perhaps stopping off at Crete and other Aegean islands on the way.
This wreck was very clearly of special importance for our knowledge of trade between Cyprus and the Aegean, and it took just four years for the excavators to complete conservation work and carry out a wider archaeological evaluation of the finds after completing the initial underwater investigation of the site. The entire excavation was presented at an international meeting organized by HIMA on the island of Spetses in September 1998, while since then the cargo of the ship has been on display in the Spetses Museum.
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