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Archaeologists have examined the sunken ancient city of Olous

Underwater archaeologists from Greece have published the results of an exploration of the sunken ancient city of Olounda (Olous), located in the Mediterranean waters off the coast of Crete. The Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports has published in recent days the results of work carried out underwater in north-western Crete. The field research was
Published: March 13, 2021 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 22:06
Archaeologists have examined the sunken ancient city of Olous

Underwater archaeologists from Greece have published the results of an exploration of the sunken ancient city of Olounda (Olous), located in the Mediterranean waters off the coast of Crete.

The Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports has published in recent days the results of work carried out underwater in north-western Crete. The field research was carried out as part of a cyclical project and this was the fourth season of work.

Remains of the sunken town of Olous

The main objective of the archaeologists was to explore and document the ruins of the sunken city of Olounda, which represents the remains of the Minoan culture, one of the oldest Bronze Age civilisations in the Mediterranean, dating back to around 3000 BC.

The core of the team investigating the remains of the ancient city were archaeologists from the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities. They were supported by geophysicists from the Institute of Mediterranean Studies (FORTH) and a group of diving volunteers. All activities are carried out as part of a five-year research project that began in 2017

Sunken ancient structures

The team has so far carried out underwater research along the coasts of the Gulf of Elounda and the Spinalonga Peninsula. Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of submerged structures on both sides of the Isthmus of Poros, a site that was the centre of urban life in ancient times.

Most of the area explored is easily accessible from the shoreline, which, combined with the fantastic water conditions, has made the site extremely popular with diving and snorkelling tourists. After all, who wouldn’t want to see the remains of an ancient civilisation from several thousand years ago underwater?

Archaeologists have examined the sunken ancient city of Olous

In previous seasons, the team has come across evidence of shipping and maritime activity from various periods. These include fragments of an ancient pier and a cargo platform located on it. Materials used as ballast on ships, anchors and partial remains of Byzantine and 20th century shipwrecks have also been discovered.

Last season focused on the shallow waters north and south of Poros. Divers removed sand and vegetation, documenting the remains of ancient structures.

The team uncovered the upper part of a large, elongated structure that was initially thought to be part of the city walls or further remains of an ancient pier. It is only with further research and continued excavations around the structure that its exact shape will be determined and perhaps the function it served.

Geophysical survey of the sunken town of Olous Specialists from the Satellite Remote Sensing & Archaeoenvironment Laboratory (GeoSat ReSeArch Lab) conducted geophysical surveys of the seabed using electrical and magnetic resonance, collecting data on the presence of ancient structures buried in the substrate to a depth of 1.5 metres.

Research in surrounding waters

In addition to Poros, underwater research continued in Krios Bay, east of the Spinalonga peninsula. Large concentrations of pottery were found there on the seabed. Further investigations along the coast to the Gulf of Vathi revealed more pottery and the remains of a sunken building.

A fresh water spring was found on a nearby beach, as well as Minoan pottery. It was mixed with many purple oysters, used to make an ancient dye. In the nearby Tsiflika area, the sunken remains of buildings and an elongated structure, called a ‘road’ by locals, were located and photographed from the air. The structure may have served as the main thoroughfare to the now submerged building complex.

The city disappeared in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea probably due to a large landslide. Another hypothesis speaks of a powerful earthquake that occurred in the year 780.

Photo: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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