Recent research and new finds from the MENTOR shipwreck at Cythera (1802)
The recent archaeological expeditions (2009, 2011-15) conducted by the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities at the wreck of the brig Mentor, which sank in 1802 off Kythera, 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. The brig, owned by Lord Elgin, was transporting some of the antiquities and sculptures taken from the Acropolis monuments, and sank off the small port of Avlemonas in September 1802. 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 rumour, should still remain at the site.
The artefacts that have been discovered can be identified as objects for navigation, parts of the ship’s rigging and ornamentation, objects used for life on board, the ship’s armature, personal belongings of the passengers and crew and finally objects that possibly can be related to the shipload, such as ancient coins, Rhodian amphorae stamps, fossils, part of an Egyptian pharaonic statue and a fragmented Egyptian marble relief.
Dimitris Kourkoumelis was born in Corfu, Greece. He holds a PhD from the University of Aix-en-Provence (1988), on a subject regarding trade, economy and transport amphorae of ancient Corfu. Since 1975 he has participated in excavations in Crete (Archanes) and Corfu, as well as in the underwater archaeological excavations carried out by the Hellenic Institute of Marine Archaeology on the Dokos and Iria wrecks. From 1993 to 2001 he directed the underwater survey and excavation of the 4th-century B.C. shipwreck off Kythera conducted by the same Institute. From 2005 to 2011, he was the co-director, along with Professor A. Mazarakis-Ainian, of the survey and excavation of the ancient harbour of Kythnos (Cyclades). Since 2011 he has directed the underwater excavation of the historical shipwreck MENTOR (1802) off Kythera, as well as, since 2013, being co-director of research for the Lechaion Harbour Project (Corinth). He has participated in a number of archaeological symposia and congresses with papers regarding transport amphorae, ancient trade and economy and also the results and studies of the excavations that he directed. From 2000 to 2011, he taught a course in Maritime Archaeology as adjunct faculty at the University of Thessaly. Since 1999, he has been working as an archaeologist in the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports (Hellenic Department of Underwater Antiquities).