The underwater survey of the South coast of Naxos is a three-year long joint research project of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities in Athens and the Norwegian Maritime Museum in Oslo in cooperation with The Naxos Diving Centre. The project is administered by the Norwegian Institute at Athens. Its objective is the survey of harbours and wreck sites from the Classical to the Byzantine period along the South coast of Naxos.
The project will give unique insight in how remote areas without obvious large coastal settlements were connected to the sea and thereby the Mediterranean world. It might give new knowledge on unknown coastal nuclei, which served as a link between the inland settlements and the sea. It shall further be examined if ideal natural harbours were only used in connection to existing settlements during a certain span of time or if they are unaffected by changes in the settlement patterns on land.
The sparsely populated south coast of Naxos is in many ways ideal for a survey of harbours. Its natural harbours are not included in larger settlements and are potentially well preserved, even though the increase in tourism related boat trips to the bays and the building of smaller harbour constructions already have affected some of the ancient sites. In contrary to other landscapes where ancient and medieval harbours are largely destroyed or incorporated into new harbours (compare Chora), it must be assumed that the South coast has its’ original harbours largely preserved and can give a unique insight into the maritime infrastructure and trade in these periods.
The project aims to map all harbours along the South coast between Panermos and Aliko and to establish knowledge of their specific function and their periods of use. There are only very few settlements known from the Greek to the Byzantine period in that area. Most important is Kastro Apalirou currently the focus of the ongoing Norwegian Naxos Survey. Kastro Apalirou is a 7th or 8th century settlement, which gained importance during the Byzantine period. Another nucleus for surrounding farmsteads was certainly the fortified farm Pyrgos Chimarou, which maintained its’ importance for the area also in the Byzantine period, when it served as a monastery. Thirdly, a Late Roman castle and a Bronze Age settlement at Panermos indicate periods of activity around the natural harbour.
The project carries out an extensive search of the seabed with Side-Scan Sonar and visually with free diving and SCUBA diving. The main mode of detail measurement is 3D photogrammetry. Sites identified are being documented, searched with metal-detectors and ceramics sampled. A selection of sites will be subject to small-scale excavations in the coming seasons. Two extensive harbours or anchorages have already been surveyed. One of these harbours, Panermos, is characterized by many ballast piles, which prove that ships not only unloaded but also loaded cargo in the harbour. Rich finds of broken ceramics on the seabed accounts for loading and unloading activity at least during the Roman Imperial and Late Roman periods. Wreckage of several ship wrecks have been located on reefs along the south coast and can shed light on the inventory of ships sailing along the coast in the first millennium AD. The other site is located within a days’ journey by foot from Kastro Apalirou and might have served as an anchorage for the settlement. The chronology of the ceramics is still being evaluated, but some finds indicate the harbour was used both before the settlement but also during its peak in the Byzantine period.