Mission Plan
Mission Plan



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Sea of Crete 2006 Expedition Summary

Katherine Croff
Ph.D. Student
Institute for Archaeological Oceanography
Graduate School of Oceanography
University of Rhode Island

The Sea of Crete 2006 project proved to be a very successful mission! This was the first archaeological oceanography survey in this region, and it has provided a solid baseline of information on the geology and archaeology of the Sea of Crete that will be helpful for research and fieldwork in the future. In April and May 2006, a team of marine geologists, archaeologists and engineers boarded the R/V Endeavor to carry out the initial side scan sonar survey, which was to be our primary dataset for the second portion of the cruise. This team surveyed approximately 500 km², and located 203 anomalies in the side scan record. After we reviewed the sonar data, the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) team returned in June to investigate 21 of the targets with IFE ROVs Hercules and Argus. In total, eight ROV dives were conducted, and the vehicles were working on the seafloor for a total of 80 hours. Three of the targets turned out to be archaeological sites, seven targets were geological in nature and the rest were either not located or were modern debris.

One of the first targets that we investigated, Target 153, consisted of a scattered site of six ceramic vessels, and a large concentration of pottery sherds (shards), which are broken pieces of ceramic material. This pottery deposit was surrounded by hundreds of shrimp, fish, and other marine life; there was even a fish poking its head out of one of the ceramic vessels! Upon initial inspection, the ceramics are likely from the Roman or Byzantine periods (c. 2000-1500 YBP), but they have yet to be positively identified.

Two modern shipwrecks, probably dating to the late 19th or early 20th century, were discovered this year. The first, Target 117, is 10-20 meters long, is sitting upright on the seafloor, and is oriented with its bow facing north. There is no visible damage to indicate the cause of sinking. The second, Target 143, is approximately 120 meters long, is lying on its starboard side, and is oriented with its bow facing SSE. The bow of Target 143 is crushed and there is a large tear in the port hull amidships. We are now doing research to identify these shipwrecks – to learn where they are from, where they were headed, and what their purpose may have been before they sank.

In addition to target investigation, we also undertook east-west visual transect surveys with the ROVs in the central Sea of Crete. During these operations, we found approximately 15 ceramic vessels that did not seem to be associated with any other archaeological material. Most of these vessels date from the Classical to Byzantine periods (c. 2500-1500 YBP). We are currently in the process of identifying the likely places of origin and uses of the ceramics.

Finally, a number of geological mounds were discovered in the eastern side of the central Sea of Crete basin. These mounds are unique features in the basin, since they are surrounded by seabed that has little relief and only a few rocky outcrops. The mounds are on the order of a few meters in diameter, 1-2 meters in height, and all have a crater-like depression on the top. They look similar to the low-temperature hydrothermal vents located in the Thera (Santorini) caldera, but there was no evidence of recent hydrothermal activity. It is possible that the mounds are dormant or extinct hydrothermal vents, but only further investigation and sampling will be able to determine their precise nature.

A firm understanding of the geological environment in the Sea of Crete will assist us in the location and identification of archaeological material, so that we may further explore the maritime history of the Sea of Crete.


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