Pavlopetri is about 5,000 years-old & one of the oldest submerged ‘lost cities’ in the world

Pavlopetri, located underwater off the coast of southern Laconia in Peloponnese, Greece, is around 5,000 years old and is one of the oldest submerged Lost Cities (oldest in Mediterranean sea). The present name for the islet and beach is Pavlopetri (“Paul’s and Peter’s,” or “Paul’s stone”); it appears to be named after the two Christian saints who are commemorated together; the ancient name or names are unknown.

Pavlopetri was discovered in 1967 by Nicholas Flemming and surveyed in 1968 by a team of archaeologists from Cambridge. It is located between the Pavlopetri islet and the Pounta shore. The shoreline, archaeological site, islet, and surrounding sea area are all located inside the Elafonisos Municipality, on the former “Onou Gnathos” peninsula (according to Pausanias). It is exceptional in that it has an almost full town layout, complete with streets, houses, and tombs.

The ruins were originally dated to the Mycenaean period, 1600-1100 BC, but further research revealed an older habitation date of no later than 2800 BC, thus it also includes early Bronze Age, middle Minoan, and transitional material. The village was believed to have been flooded approximately 1000 BC by the first of three earthquakes that struck the area. Because the region never re-emerged, it was not built over or damaged by agriculture. The settlement plan has not changed throughout the ages, despite being undermined. Boats dragging anchors, as well as visitors and souvenir hunters, pose a threat to the monument.

The primary goal of the 2009 fieldwork was to map the site. It is the first three-dimensional digital survey of a submerged community. Recent work has benefited from sonar mapping techniques developed by military and oil exploration organizations. At least 15 structures in the city are flooded in water 3 to 4 meters (9.8-13.1 feet). Only the most recent findings in 2009 span 9,000 m2 (2.2 acres).

The British/Australian archaeological team’s study was compiled into an hour-long BBC documentary movie, “City Beneath the Waves: Pavlopetri,” which aired on BBC Two in 2011.

Pavlopetri is part of the underwater cultural heritage as recognized by the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage protects any evidence of human presence underwater that are one hundred years or older. The purpose of this agreement is to avoid the damage or loss of historic and cultural information, as well as looting. It provides an international legal framework to assist state parties in protecting their undersea cultural assets.

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