Greece's submerged treasures exhibited at Pylos castle in Messinia

Α Decrease font Enlarge font
Greece's submerged treasures exhibited at Pylos castle in MessiniaThe “New” Castle overlooks Pylos from a hill at the southern end of its impressive natural harbor

"It was still early in the morning when we reached Pylos, a pretty seaside town on the southwestern coast of the Peloponnese, just as its residents were starting to stir", Kathimerini  writes in a recent article and continues:

"We left behind the main square with its big, shady plane trees and headed to Niokastro – the “New” Castle – which overlooks Pylos from a hill at the southern end of its impressive natural harbor. The 15th-16th century Mediterranean fortress is typical of its era, with an outer wall surrounding the settlement and the acropolis, the latter of which was contained within a hexagonal fortress, the last line of defense from marauders.

Together with early-bird tourists, we walked through the castle gates to meet the head of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, Angeliki Simosi. She is just the right person to show us around the collection of exhibitions that opened in Niokastro in 2012 and represent the only place in the country where you can get a comprehensive view of Greece's underwater treasures.

“The idea of restoring Pylos's castle belonged to Georgios Papathanasopoulos, the ephorate's first curator,” Simosi said. “What he originally had in mind was an underwater research center like that of Halicarnassus at Bodrum in Turkey. He never managed to accomplish his dream, but without him the castle would never have seen the restoration that it has undergone, especially as it was taken away from the ephorate's jurisdiction in 1997. We were able to get it back later, but it took a lot of work.”

Restoration and remodeling work has been carried out on the castle's Makriyianni Rampart and Pasha Building, which today are among the structures used to showcase the work being done by the Athens-based ephorate.

“Visitors can admire fascinating finds, learn about the location of major shipwrecks and also about our conservation work, and much more,” said Simosi.

We started our tour at the Pasha Building, with a new addition to our group, Ilias Kouvelas, a Pylos native and a diver with the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities for the past 35 years. He made his first dive when he was 17 during excavations of the Pythagoreion on the island of Samos, and since then he has explored almost every wreck covered in “Sunken Journeys, Human Exploration: Important Finds from the Seas of the Peloponnese,” a marvelous ongoing exhibition which was set up under the ephorate's supervision back in 2012.

In the main hall of the Pasha Building, which has been designed to resemble an ancient ship hull, a huge map of the Peloponnese on the floor helps visitors locate the show's seven wrecks, which lie off the shores of Cephalonia, Zakynthos, Kythera and Methoni and date from the prehistoric to modern times. They include the shipwreck off Cape Xi in Lixouri, Cephalonia, with its impressive Hellenistic-era statues.

Fear of antiquities thieves

“The sculptures were discovered by holidaymakers in the summer of 1980, just 300 meters off the coast. We responded immediately and brought them up before they could fall prey to antiquities thieves,” says Kouvelas.

The sculptures were likely pillaged from a Greek temple and loaded onto a ship that was sailing to Italy when it sank.

Moving on, our attention was drawn to a compass and stone plaques adorned with fossils of fish. These came from the Mentor, the ship laden with sculptures prised from the Parthenon on the orders of Lord Elgin, which sank off southern Kythera en route to England.

We headed for the exhibition “Sunken Settlements of the Peloponnese” at the Makriyianni Rampart, one of seven bastions around Niokastro, which has been transformed into a pretty museum showcasing architectural elements that confirm many of the testimonies of ancient travelers.

“Here we present findings from three sunken settlements in the southern Peloponnese,” said Simosi. “Pavlopetri, which is in the region of Laconia, was a prehistoric settlement that was discovered in 1970. A few inspections were held, but in 2009, the British School at Athens proposed that we work together to excavate the site. Indeed, we discovered a very extensive settlement, which also contained a mansion, meaning that an aristocrat lived there.

“The second settlement, also extensive, comes from the Middle Bronze Age and is today located on the coast of Methoni. Important buildings have been found there too, while extensive geological research has shown that there are remains of the settlement beneath the sand as well. We have some very important discoveries from Methoni, such as a jar used in prehistoric times to inter a child, which would then be placed in the home.

“The third sunken city is Asopos in Plytra in Laconia, with buildings from the Hellenic, Roman and Late Roman periods. We need to conduct more research there, however.”

The last stop of our tour takes us to the acropolis. Simosi and her associates have taken advantage of six cells and filled them with antiquities, while a seventh is used to display diving equipment used in excavations through the ages: old suits and metal detectors, decompression chambers, electronic pumps used to fill oxygen tanks, and much more.

The passageways of the acropolis have been used to set up the open-air exhibition “The Greek Seabed Tells its Stories,” comprising mainly photographs and complemented by finds from different parts of Greece and different eras. It's a bit of a potpourri of the ephorate's research in the last decade – but is by no means insignificant.

“The future of Greece's archaeology lies in underwater archaeology, because it seems that we've seen what we can from the land,” said Simosi.

One of her department's greatest challenges now is creating underwater archaeological sites that can be visited by the public. Plans are already in the works for sites in Pylos, Magnesia and Attica.

Tsiklitiras house

We left Niokastro and headed back down toward the center of Pylos, where an impressive neoclassical mansion seems to dominate the historic bay of Navarino. It is the former home of Olympic champion Costis Tsiklitiras, whose second floor has been conceded by the municipal authority to the Ministry of Culture. Here, the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities has set up an exhibition of items from the collection of French philhellene Rene Puaux (1878-1937). A war correspondent and writer, Puaux was a witness of the turbulent developments in Greece in the first half of the 20th century and conducted seven trips around the country. He also collected artworks on the subject of the 1821 Greek War of Independence, which he then donated to the Greek state.

The Tsiklitiras mansion now houses Puaux's collection of maps, swords, pistols, portraits, engravings, medals, manuscripts and letters from the time of the Battle of Navarino and the Greek liberation.

Read more here.

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinations Greek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

Tornos
  1. 14/06 22:58

    Greek port of Preveza attracts visitors from Serbia

  2. 14/06 22:03

    Temperature drop expected in Greece on Saturday

  3. 14/06 17:58

    Athens and Thessaloniki added 250 new electric buses to their urban transport networks

  4. 13/06 22:43

    National Theater to perform Aristophanes at ancient Greek theaters over the summer

  5. 12/06 11:48

    Athens Acropolis site closed down from 12:00 to 17:00 due to high temperatures

  6. 12/06 00:01

    'Poor Things' costumes exhbition at Benaki Museum in downtown Athens

  7. 11/06 15:53

    Schools in Athens to stay closed on Wednesday and Thursday due to heatwave

  8. 11/06 00:10

    Greek Port Authority to acquire 11 boats for transfer of patients from remote islands

  9. 11/06 00:03

    Greece's Interior Ministry issues directions for remote work during heatwave

  10. 10/06 23:45

    Digital app for travellers to Greece 'mAIGreece' goes live on Monday

  11. 10/06 22:28

    Greek Interior Ministry issues directions for remote work during heatwave on Tuesday-Thursday

  12. 10/06 19:38

    Traffic restored on new Greek national highway leading to Corinth after truck explosion

  13. 10/06 14:42

    Very high temperatures in Greece during the following days

  14. 09/06 22:47

    High prices of consumer goods in Greek supermarkets are on a downward trend

  15. 09/06 11:18

    UK Tourism 2024: Greece named top destination in the world with best value for money

  16. 08/06 00:22

    Insolvency: FTI Touristik GmbH cancels all trips up to and including 05 July 2024

  17. 07/06 02:54

    ERTFLIX International takes part in the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival

  18. 07/06 02:42

    NBG: Greek tourism to break record in 2024 with 35 million arrivals and €22 billion in revenue

  19. 06/06 20:50

    Greece elected to UN Security Council for 2025-26 in a 'historic day'

  20. 06/06 13:57

    Hellenic National Archaeological Museum presents "The last Aphrodites" exhibition

  21. 05/06 22:00

    FTI provisional insolvency admin strives for fastest possible solutions for clients

  22. 05/06 00:13

    Turkey denies allowing Lord Elgin take Parthenon Marbles off Athens Acropolis

  23. 04/06 20:04

    Migration & Asylum Ministry greenlights extra funding for 5 Greek island municipalities

  24. 04/06 14:55

    Greek wine promotion event in London held under the auspices of GNTO

  25. 04/06 09:33

    Firms of the FTI GROUP file for insolvency

  26. 01/06 23:59

    Regalia of King Otto on display in the Greek parliament in Athens until 2073

  27. 30/05 22:04

    Eight groups submit expression of interest for Greek port of Lavrio

  28. 30/05 21:01

    Traffic restrictions in Athens on Sunday morning for Cancer Survivors Day event

  29. 30/05 20:19

    Conference and Summit of Global Archons conclides with dinner at Zappeion

  30. 30/05 18:15

    Posidonia 2024: Minister wants more ships and related firms registered in Greece

  31. 30/05 15:23

    Greek government spokesperson announces launch of new Entrepreneurship Fund

  32. 29/05 23:31

    National Opera adds fifth performance of 'Tosca' due to high demand in Athens

  33. 29/05 21:24

    Japan's Princess Kako tours Greece and visits National Foundation for the Deaf in Corfu

  34. 29/05 19:20

    Attica Region governor talks synergies with firms, agencies at Shanghai conference

  35. 29/05 18:16

    ATTICA GREEN EXPO 2024: Deputy Tourism Minister promotes sustainable tourism

  36. 29/05 15:11

    Greek Prime Minister meets Emir of Qatar and two bilateral agreements are signed

  37. 29/05 14:47

    Registrations Open for Navarino Challenge 2024

  38. 28/05 22:58

    Greek PM: We will continue to work hard to curb rising prices

  39. 28/05 22:54

    Greek FinMin utilizes Recovery Fund, NSRF to be in vanguard of green transition

  40. 28/05 19:46

    'The Enigma of Keros' clinches Audience Favorite prize at International Festival in Oregon

  41. 28/05 17:49

    Former US Secretary of State Pompeo addresses Archon Conference in Athens

  42. 28/05 17:41

    European report confirms 95.8% of bathing waters in Greece have 'excellent quality'

  43. 27/05 23:05

    Türkiye's Ambassador to Athens on boosting economic, commercial, and cultural relations

  44. 27/05 21:11

    4th International Conference on Religious Freedom of Archons commences in Athens

  45. 27/05 20:19

    Delegation from the Saudi Arabia visits ONEX shipyards in Elefsis near Athens

  46. 27/05 18:15

    Princess Kako takes part in 125th anniversary of Greek-Japanese diplomatic relations

  47. 27/05 14:07

    National Opera offers free tickets to the dress rehearsal of 'Tosca' for the jobless

  48. 23/05 23:30

    New Evinos bridge in Central Greece inaugurated by Transport Minister

  49. 23/05 21:34

    Greece hosting meeting of International Organization of Securities Commissions May 26-29

  50. 23/05 20:37

    Greek Deputy Foreign Minister highlights efforts to counter brain drain

  51. 23/05 20:24

    Greek government to improve ties with Diaspora and consular services by AI

  52. 23/05 13:15

    Climate Perception: Greece most resilient to global warming among Med destinations

  53. 22/05 23:17

    Commander of French land forces visits Greece to promote military ties

  54. 22/05 20:06

    Greek presence at 77th Cannes Film Festival includes Lanthimos film

  55. 22/05 18:55

    Greece's Kalamata Dance Festival opens July 12 featuring 19 productions

  56. 22/05 18:11

    Over 630 schools participate in 'Greek PISA' assessment tests on Wednesday

  57. 22/05 16:52

    Summer of 2024 to be among hottest in recent years

  58. 22/05 12:32

    Porto Carras Pro-Am Aegean Mini Tour with participants from 12 countries

  59. 21/05 18:30

    The President of the Hellenic Republic to visit Florence in Italy on May 23

  60. 21/05 17:24

    'Greece through the Art of the Tourist Poster' exhibition in Chengdu of China

  61. 21/05 17:21

    American Hellenic Institute honors Anniversary of the Pontic Greek Genocide

  62. 21/05 15:17

    Arrivals and nights in Greek tourist accommodation rise 3.5% and 4.9% in March

  63. 21/05 14:12

    Greek Tourism Minister receives ambassadors of Iraq and Slovakia

  64. 20/05 01:51

    First Ramada by Wyndham Hotel in Fethiye opens in Ölüdeniz of Turkey

  65. 17/05 01:25

    Mayors of Athens and Rome discuss city challenges and cooperation

  66. 16/05 23:20

    Tsakopoulos Collection & Hellenic Studies Program marked their 20th anniversary

  67. 16/05 21:17

    Greek Culture Minister hosts Turkish counterpart for ‘Romeo and Juliet’ premiere

  68. 16/05 20:12

    Greek Finance Minister advocates green transition and Recovery Fund II

  69. 16/05 15:27

    Higher global temperatures causing Caretta turtles to lay eggs sooner in Greece

  70. 15/05 20:32

    BoG urges progress on harmonizing national systems of bank deposit guarantees

  71. 15/05 19:22

    Islands Decarbonization Fund signing in Greek island of Naxos on May 27

  72. 15/05 14:15

    EU Commission forecasts Greece's growth rate at 2.2% in 2024 and 2.3% in 2025

  73. 14/05 22:27

    Syracuse show on Mycenaean influence on Sicily includes golden cup of Dendra

  74. 14/05 20:34

    Greek Health Minister attends World Health Congress in Abu Dhabi

  75. 14/05 19:23

    Greece and Santorini clinch top honors at American Leisure Lifestyle Awards 2024

  76. 14/05 18:31

    20th Thessaloniki International Book Fair opens from May 16-19 at Helexpo

  77. 13/05 20:16

    Greek Prime Minister meets with Turkish President in Ankara (video)

  78. 13/05 20:11

    Greek Council of State to mull relocation of Mt Parnas casino to Maroussi again

  79. 13/05 15:48

    Athens Acropolis Museum offering free admission on May 18

  80. 13/05 09:53

    Discover Kerasia Petrified Forest in northern Evia near the Greek Capital

  81. 11/05 01:30

    Greek Foreign Minister congratulated new Serbian counterpart on assumption of duties

  82. 10/05 22:45

    The 52nd Oakland Greek Festival to take place this year on May 17-19

  83. 10/05 22:33

    Thessaloniki Port pier extension expected to be given the green light in the fall

  84. 10/05 19:42

    Hellenic President visits Greek community's premises and Cavafy's tomb in Alexandria

  85. 10/05 19:27

    Greek and Swiss ministers meet in Athens on investments and cooperation

  86. 09/05 17:22

    Red Arrows aerobatic team to perform in Athens suburb of Paleo Faliro on May 18

  87. 05/05 19:40

    International Tourism | WTTC: Travel sector set to break all records during 2024

  88. 04/05 17:56

    Minister launches dynamic plan to boost Greece's relations with other countries

  89. 04/05 17:44

    Greece opens another five Aegean Islands to Turkish visitors fast-track visas

  90. 03/05 23:04

    OECD report: Greek economy stays resilient

  91. 03/05 18:00

    Minister: Zero price hikes in Greece in March and April

  92. 03/05 17:42

    Aegean and Olympic Air to fly 'Holy Light' from Athens to the rest of Greece

  93. 03/05 17:39

    Athens transportation schedules over 2024 Greek Easter holidays announced

  94. 03/05 01:26

    Greece's unemployment rate drops to 10.2% in March 2024

  95. 01/05 11:45

    Euro 2004 Legends play FootGolf at Porto Carras Pro-Am Aegean Mini Tour

  96. 30/04 22:36

    Visa entry express now available on five more Greek islands for Turkish citizens

  97. 30/04 20:44

    Hellenic Police launches 10201, a 24-hour hotline for protection of minors in Greece

  98. 30/04 19:42

    Aegean Airlines to distribute dividend for the first time after four years

  99. 30/04 18:39

    May Day strikes in Greece: Public transportation disruptions and Syntagma Metro station closure

  100. 25/04 22:00

    Greek FM talks with Kuwaiti counterpart on bilateral relations, regional cooperation