2012 Excavations at Zea

Fig. 1 Artistic reconstruction of the unroofed slipways (Yiannis Nakas 2012, colouring by deviantART).

December 7, 2012: The Zea Harbour Project has made a number of discoveries in the ancient harbours of Zea and Mounichia (modern Mikrolimano). The following summarizes the most significant results at Zea Harbour. Two following ‘news points’ will report on our geophysical investigations in the broader area of the Piraeus and our work at Mounichia Harbour.

In Zea Harbour we made one of our most important discoveries to date. Along the coastline in the southeastern side of Zea (Area 3) we discovered seven areas of worked flat bedrock separated by six parallel raised rock-cut platforms (Fig. 2). These structures identified as unroofed slipways, are constructed in a consistent matrix and both incline down towards the sea. They are approximately 8 m wide, and were most probably designed for the larger warship type penteres (‘five’). These majestic warships, which are reconstructed at around 45 m long with a total crew of 377 men, were introduced in the Athenian navy during the 320s BC at the eve of her Golden Age (Fig. 1). A number of ancient quarries were also found in the area of the slipways.

Excavations were also conducted on the submerged parts of Tower Z-T1 and on the coastal fortifications protecting the eastern side of the channel leading into the Zea Harbour basin (Fig. 3). Here we documented how the coastal fortifications interconnect with those of the naval base. This is an important step in understanding the topography of one of the most important harbours in antiquity.

The Zea Harbour Project operates under the auspices of the Danish Institute at Athens and is directed by Dr. Bjørn Lovén. The project is supervised by the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities. The Carlsberg Foundation has been the project’s principal sponsor since 2004.

  • Fig. 2 Underwater archaeologists excavating the foundations of the unroofed slipways

  • Fig. 3 Digital survey of the submerged foundations of the coastal fortifications