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Greek divers unearth artifacts from 19th century wreck

Underwater archaeologists from Greece have unearthed a number of interesting artefacts that were discovered on the Mentor shipwreck, which once belonged to British diplomat Lord Elgin. The vessel sank in the Aegean Sea in 1802. During recent excavations carried out from 4-21 September 2020, on the wreck of the 19th-century vessel Mentor, researchers found and
Published: February 3, 2021 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 21:56
Greek divers unearth artifacts from 19th century wreck

Underwater archaeologists from Greece have unearthed a number of interesting artefacts that were discovered on the Mentor shipwreck, which once belonged to British diplomat Lord Elgin. The vessel sank in the Aegean Sea in 1802.

During recent excavations carried out from 4-21 September 2020, on the wreck of the 19th-century vessel Mentor, researchers found and excavated a number of objects belonging to the ship’s passengers, as well as items of equipment.

archaeological diver on a wreck The sailing ship Mentor was a two-masted brig owned by Lord Elgin, which sailed from Greece to Britain in 1802. The ship’s holds contained great treasures of Greek culture, such as marble sculptures from the Parthenon, the Acropolis and many other Athenian monuments.

underwater archaeologists working on the wreck However, not only did the vessel not reach its destination, but quite soon after setting sail it was caught in a strong storm, as a result of which it crashed into the rocks off one of the Ionian Islands – Kithira. The damage was so severe that the ship could not be saved and sank to the bottom at a depth of 23 metres.

Fortunately, there was no tragedy and everyone on board survived. The shallow depths allowed Elgin to organise the retrieval of the Mentor’s cargo, for which he hired sponge divers. The relics eventually made their way to the UK, where they remain on display in the British Museum to this day and testify to the plundering policies pursued by the British.

Underwater archaeologists descending on the wreck As for the wreck, it has been systematically visited by new research expeditions since 2011 and is an excellent archaeological site. So far, among other things, navigational instruments, gold watches, gold rings and earrings, pots, chains, coins, bottles and buttons have been found here.

underwater archaeologist working with ejector Also discovered were 35 complete and partial pulleys, parts of leather shoes, in one case with a full sole, shoe and belt buckles, coins, including a small one probably intended for card games, two chess figures, adding them to the six found during earlier work and probably forming part of the same set, and fragments of kitchenware and other utensils.

All work on the site was carried out by an interdisciplinary team of eighteen people, including archaeologists, marine biologists, surveyors, conservators and seabed technicians. The work was conducted under the supervision of Dimitris Kourkoumelis of the Ephorate of Marine Antiquities, part of the Greek Ministry of Culture.

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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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