A running start

October 8, 2011 – The 2011 campaign is up and running at full speed. We are working in Mikrolimano, the ancient Mounichia Harbour that in the late 330s BC accommodated 82 triremes. Our focus is on excavating the shipsheds we discovered last year in the northern side of the harbour basin, and continuing the investigations of two massive fortified moles that protected the ancient harbour from seaside attacks. Later this season, we will also carry out a geophysical survey in the sea immediately outside the Piraeus. The primary objective of this is to document the ancient seascape, but we also hope to find ancient shipwrecks in this area!

Excavating in Mikrolimano is difficult, not least because we are diving in a contaminated environment inside an active modern harbour. The logistical setup is complex, the work requires a team with a very wide range of professional skills and a stringent safety protocol (see ‘Gallery’ for more information on contaminated water diving).

Prior to the start of the campaign we set up our base camp consisting of two containers with a tarpaulin between them that creates a shaded ‘office area’ (Fig. 1). The right-hand unit contains the ‘heart’ of our operations – the generator that provides power to the water pumps which run the dredges for excavating underwater (Fig. 2), to the compressor that fills our diving tanks with air, and to the aforementioned ‘office’, where the archaeologists write their dive logs immediately after their dive. The container on the left is used as a general storage and maintenance area. We have also assembled and launched a floating platform that will enable us to carry out excavations in areas where we cannot run electric pumps (Fig. 3).

Fig. 1 The base camp at Mikrolimano

Over the next weeks we will keep you updated on our investigations and also present different aspects of our work.

  • Fig. 2 Divers and land crew setting up the excavation equipment

  • Fig. 3 Setting up a diesel water-pump on the floating platform