Sea gives up secrets to experts
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Posted 19 October 2009 - 07:55 AM
With shafts of sunlight shimmering through a few metres of crystal clear water, you can pick out the cornerstones of an ancient civilisation which inspired literature and legend. There is more than a whiff of Atlantis about the story of Pavlopetri - the world's oldest submerged town.
But the Bronze Age site, off the coast of Laconia in Greece, has its roots in fact not fiction. New underwater archaeology techniques - with sonar mapping used by the military and off-shore oil industry - are giving up new secrets.
An international team, given special permission to dive by the Greek government, has found artefacts on the sea bed dating back 5,000 years. This fresh information puts the world's oldest submerged town well over a millennium older than previously thought.
Dr Jon Henderson led a team from the University of Nottingham and said the expedition surpassed all expectations.
"This site is unique in that we have almost the complete town plan, the main streets and domestic buildings, courtyards, rock-cut tombs and what appear to be religious buildings, clearly visible on the seabed.
"Equally as a harbour settlement, the study of the archaeological material we have recovered will be extremely important in terms of revealing how maritime trade was conducted and managed in the Bronze Age."
One of the most important discoveries has been what is believed to be a large rectangular great hall, known as a "Megaron", from the early Bronze Age period.
They have also found more than 9,000sq m of new buildings, including a pillar crypt, which could be the first example ever discovered on the Greek mainland. The Hellenic Ministry of Culture's Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities is overseeing the work.
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