2005 SeaBED AUV survey of Classical Greek wreck

A Collaboration with the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and Hellenic Centre for Marine Research

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Recovery of the SeaBED AUV during the Chios 2005 Classical shipwreck survey. (Chris Roman, WHOI)

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One of several thousand images of the Classical wreck, from the camera on the SeaBED autonomous underwater vehicle. (Chios Shipwreck Survey 2005 - WHOI, Hellenic Ministry of Culture: Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research)

Related Multimedia
Slide show 1 - Chios AUV survey
Pictures of Chios island, research vessel, team, and AUV.
» View Slideshow

Slide show 2 - The wreck site
Images of an ancient Greek shipwreck between Chios and Oinoussai Islands
» View Slideshow

Seabed AUV over a Roman-era wreck
NOTE: Educators wishing to use this video or others in their classes may obtain high-resolution versions. Please contact Dr. Brendan Foley,
Chios 2005 Project
» View Video (Quicktime) DSL/Cable Modem

Seabed AUV and diver at Chios

Chios 2005 Project
» View Video (Quicktime) DSL/Cable Modem

Merged bathymetry and photomosaic
This animation shows the site's bathymetry, collected by the multibeam sonar mounted on SeaBED. Draped over the bathymetric map is a photomosaic strip. The merged data sets deliver more information than if the data sets were viewed individually: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Chios 2005 Project
» View Video (Media Player) DSL/Cable Modem

Related Files


» Hesperia article
This article is the major scientific publication from the 2005 project. It describes the technology, methods, and archaeological results of the field season. It also sets the stage for future archaeological projects in deep water.

» Update 1 - Project announcement

» Update 2 - The load-out

» Update 3 - On site at Chios

» Update 4 - Home run!

» Update 5 - Gravy

» Update 6 - Final thoughts

» Chios shipwreck - further reading
A bibliography for Chios in the Classical period.

Related Links

» HCMR web site
Web site of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, operators of the R/V AEGAEO and associated underwater vehicles.

Greek-American scientific collaboration: Chios 2005

In 2005 the Hellenic Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, a department within the Greek Ministry of Culture, invited a team from WHOI and MIT to survey an ancient shipwreck in the Aegean Sea. Partnered with the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), the international team used the WHOI SeaBED Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to document the wreck with digitial still cameras and a high resolution mapping sonar. The team was based on the Greek research vessel AEGAEO, operated by HCMR.

The goals of the project were to experiment with and demonstrate advanced technologies, to develop archaeological methods with those technologies, and to build a solid international partnership among the scientists involved. The primary data products we hoped to deliver included a two-dimensional photomosaic of the shipwreck, and a precise bathymetric map of the site (see slide show 2, linked on the right side of this page).

The shipwreck chosen for this experimental project dates to the late Classical period, the 4th century B.C. This was one of the most influential eras in human history. The Classical Greeks' lasting contributions to modern civilization included beautiful artwork and architecture, philosophy, complex mathematics, and democracy. At the time when this ship met its fate in the Aegean, Plato might have still been alive in Athens; Socrates had taken his famous last draught within living memory. 

The wreck site is located between the islands of Chios and Oinousses in the eastern Aegean Sea, and was discovered during a 2004 sonar survey by HCMR scientists and Ephorate archaeologists. The wreck is too deep for conventional SCUBA diving, but shallow enough so that some ambient sunlight reaches the sea floor. The ship was a merchantman, carrying a mixed cargo including olive products from Chios and perhaps wine. The ceramic transport containers, called amphoras, are the most visible remains of the shipwreck.

Over two calendar days the AUV performed four missions on the Classical site, repeatedly mapping and imaging the wreck. After completing the survey of the Classical wreck, the team moved on to inspect the remains of a 19th century A.D. warship near Chios Town harbor. The HCMR remotely operated vehicle collected video imagery of the wreck’s scattered remains. The team then moved to the west coast of Chios, where we used the AUV to survey a late Hellenistic wreck.

The Chios project showcased the efficiency of robotic underwater survey. In a single three-hour dive, SeaBED’s multibeam sonar completely mapped the Classical wreck while the digital camera simultaneously collected thousands of high-resolution images. Later in the same day the team assembled those images into photomosaic strips, giving the archaeologists their first overall views of the wreck. Successive AUV missions on the Classical site provided photographs of the wreck from different angles, helping us see more details in the artifacts.

The Classical wreck was beyond diver depth, but these methods and technical systems are just as effective in shallow water. By using this technology, diving archaeologists will be freed from mundane measuring and sketching tasks, and instead can concentrate on the things people do better than robots: excavation and data interpretation.

Archaeological interpretation of the Chios wrecks commenced as soon as the first images were brought to the surface, and will continue for months after the cruise. Project archaeologists are integrating the Chios wreck into the broader history of the fourth century B.C. Aegean world (see Chios bibliography for further reading). The team presented its preliminary results at the November 2005 American Schools of Oriental Research conference  in Philadelphia.  The first major peer-reviewed article has now been published in Hesperia, the quarterly journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. The article is available as a pdf for download here. High-resolution images of the shipwreck and photomosaic are included in the article. For images of the three artifacts recovered from the wreck, follow this link.

2005 Project Participants

This project would not have been possible without the close cooperation and expertise of the following participants:

Colleagues from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities:
Katerina Delaporta, Director of Ephorate
Dionysis Evagelistis, archaeologist
Dimitris Kourkoumelis, archaeologist
Paraskevi Micha, archaeologist
Theotokis Theodoulou, archaeologist

Colleagues from the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research:
Dr. Dimitris Sakellariou, geologist, Chief Scientist
Theodoros Fotopoulos, engineer ROV-team
Panos Georgiou, geologist
Kostas Katsaros, Thetis pilot, ROV-team
Aggellos Malios, chief diver, ROV pilot, engineer
Prokopis Mantopoulos, engineer side scan sonar / subbottom profiler
Ioannis Pampidis, engineer side scan sonar / subbottom profiler
Spyros Volonakis, head of HCMR underwater activities

Colleagues from WHOI/MIT/other institutions:
Prof. Jonathan Adams, archaeologist, Univ. of Southampton
Prof. Brian Bingham, engineer - precision navigation, WHOI and Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
Ballard Blair, graduate student, WHOI/MIT Joint Program
Dr. Richard Camilli, engineer - chemical sensing, WHOI
Dr. Ryan Eustice, engineer - AUV operations and precision mapping, University of Michigan
Dr. Brendan Foley, archaeologist - project leader, WHOI and MIT
Dr. David Gallo - Director of Special Projects, WHOI
Catherine Giangrande, archaeological conservator and project development
Matt Grund, engineer - acoustic modems, WHOI
Neil McPhee, engineer - vehicle systems, WHOI
Prof. David Mindell, engineer - precision navigation, MIT and WHOI
Chris Murphy, student, WHOI/MIT Joint Program
Cathy Offinger, logistics and administrative support, WHOI
James Rakowski - Director of Major Gifts, WHOI
Dr. Christopher Roman, engineer - AUV operations and precision mapping, WHOI
Dr. Hanumant Singh, engineer - AUV operations and underwater imaging, WHOI
Ann Stone, logistics and administrative support, WHOI
Prof. David Switzer, archaeologist, Plymouth State University

Questions or comments: Email bfoley@whoi.edu


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Last updated January 10, 2010
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