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The Lord Elgin shipwreck again to the fore

20 October 2014 / 16:10:38  GRReporter
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The bottom of the Aegean Sea hides more secrets of the story of the Parthenon marbles stolen by Lord Elgin. Before reaching England, they remained 2-3 years in the waters off the island of Kythira.

"Mentor", the ship transporting the sculptures, sank near Avlemonas in September 1802 and two centuries later, the Office of Underwater Antiquities began systematic excavations and discoveries.

Using sponge hunters who dived into a depth of 20-22 metres, Lord Elgin was able to obtain again his precious cargo, namely 16 boxes of parts of the sculptures, and to carry them to England.

"Following Elgin’s orders, sponge hunters had to destroy part of the deck in order for them to enter the sunken ship and draw out the boxes of marbles, which were 16 in number", says archaeologist Dimitris Kourkoumelis.

The studies discovered personal belongings of the crew and passengers, but also items that became the object of theft.

The Office of Underwater Antiquities conducted studies for three consecutive years (2011-13) with the Niarchos and Latsis family foundations, and with the support of the Kytherian Research Group. The rumours that there was a 17th box of sculptures were not confirmed. However, the research activity has become more systematic in recent years, drawing out to the surface not only personal belongings but also Egyptian reliefs.

"Last year we expanded the excavation works outside the known perimeter and found two pieces of Egyptian reliefs. One is part of a statue of the era of the pharaohs, probably of the 8th dynasty in the year 1300 BC, and the other of an inscription dedicated to God Ra of the Ptolemaic period. The "Mentor" ship passed near Alexandria before arriving in Greece. This is the first time that the country obtains antiquities after the "gathering" of such monuments that took place ​​at that time. They have a specific value because they are the first of all antiques taken out from the eastern Mediterranean by Elgin and the likes of him that have been drawn out to the surface," explains Dimitris Kourkoumelis.

As for the Parthenon Marbles, he notes the following: "The prevailing opinion is that all parts were taken out from the sea. We also have the testimony of an Italian overseer named Luigieri, who accompanied Elgin and wrote in his diary that all marble sculptures were taken out."

Tags: Underwater excavationsParthenon MarblesLord ElginDiscoveries
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