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New findings on Lord Elgin’s shipwreck “Mentor” that sank off Kythera in 1802

Underwater exploration September of the historic wreck of “Mentor”, the brig which belonged to Lord Elgin and sank off Kythira Island in 1802 carrying antiquities from the Acropolis to UK, revealed more information about the brig’s construction, the Ministry of Culture said on Tuesday.

The “Mentor” sank while transporting part of the antiquities Lord Elgin’s team had plundered from the Parthenon, the Acropolis and other Athens monuments.

The brig had left the port of Piraeus and was en-route to Malta with final destination the United Kingdom.

Due to bad weather, the Mentor sank on 15. September 1802 after crashing onto rocks of the small port of Avlemonas on Kythera. It quickly sank to a depth of 23 meters. All the passengers and crew were rescued by the vessel Anikitos.

Sketch by Mikes Karapiperis

Hearing of the disaster, Lord Elgin organized a salvage mission. Using sponge divers from the islands of Simi and Kalymnos, the marbles were eventually salvaged from the shipwreck, and shipped to Malta and onto the United Kingdom.

The underwater exploration by the Ephorate for Underwater Antiquities under chief archaeologist Dimitris Kourkoumelisn took place from September 7 to 23, the ministry said, and focused on the area of the stern, to determine how much of it survives. But in the 2 x 2 m trench the team dug it did not find parts of the stern or other significant objects.

Most appeared to be items belonging to passengers: glass vials, buttons from clothing, a bronze furniture knob, lead bullets, sections of ropes and other small objects.

Another trench, along the well-preserved keel of the ship, revealed new data on the two-mast ship’s construction. According to archaeologists who are experts on shipping of this era, the “Mentor” was built apparently in America.

The shipwreck was re-discovered by the Institute of Marine Archaeology in 1980.

Earlier underwater excavations on the shipwreck in the 21st century  have been focused mainly on excavating the section of the hull that is still well preserved, as well as collecting information about the passengers, the crew and the cargo of the ship.

Discovered were also ancient coins, Rhodian amphorae stamps, fossils, part of an Egyptian Pharaonice statue, and a fragmented Egyptian marble inscription.

From the 19th to the 21st century, there have been several underwater investigations on the wreck undertaken with the aim to discover the “marble” sculptures, which, according to rumors, should still remain at the site.

Diving archaeologists intend to explore the bow of the Mentor, hoping to uncover more antiquities may lie buried in the seabed. “We always hope to find some fragments or pieces of the marbles that were broken and left on the seabed, awaiting discovery,” Chief archaeologist Dimitris Kourkoumelis said in 2016.

The return of the stolen Parthneon Marbles to Greece has led into a dispute between Greece and the British Museum where the stolen artifacts are exhibited.

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One comment

  1. Steve Pinder-Banthorpe

    Let us hope and pray that Jeremy Corbyn becomes British Prime Minister very soon.