In 1967 Nic Flemming of the Institute of Oceanography, University of Southampton, discovered submerged ruins just off the coast of south-eastern Laconia in the west end of the Bay of Vatika just opposite the island of Elaphonisos (Flemming 1968a, 1968b, 51ff.).

In 1968 a team from the University of Cambridge surveyed the remains over six weeks using a fixed grid system and hand tapes (Harding et al. 1969). They produced a plan of a prehistoric town, thought to be Mycenaean, covering an area of about 300m by 150m, lying in one to four metres of water. At least fifteen separate buildings (consisting of a series of rooms), courtyards, streets, two chamber tombs and at least thirty-seven cist graves were identified. The underwater site was seen to continue southward on Pavlopetri island on top of which the remains of walls and archaeological material were still visible. The 1968 project recovered a small amount of surface finds from the seabed (mainly pottery but also obsidian and chert blades and a bronze figurine) which suggested a date range from the Early to the Late Bronze Age (c. 2800-1180 BC).


In 2007 (almost 40 years after the original survey) a Post-Doctoral researcher in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Nottingham, Dr Chrysanthi Gallou, began a reassessment of the 1968 finds from Pavlopetri as part of her wider research on prehistoric Laconia.  She began discussions with Dr. Jon Henderson, Director of the Underwater Archaeology Research Centre, also based within the Department, about the possibility of returning to the site to carry out further archaeological work.

In 2008 Dr. Jon Henderson, Dr. Chrysanthi Gallou and Dr. N. C. Flemming visited the site and made a visual inspection of the ruins on the sea floor. The main outline of the building walls, streets and rock-cut tombs were still visible.  They quickly realized that new underwater survey work in collaboration with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture was needed to accurately assess the current state of preservation and identify the future level of threat to the site from waves and currents.


Diver over the remains of a domestic building at Pavlopetri

In 2009, through a British School of Archaeology at Athens permit, the University of Nottingham began a collaborative project with the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture to further investigate the submerged remains at Pavlopetri. The project was set to last for five years and had the ultimate aim of defining the history and diachronic development of Pavlopetri.

A fundamental aim of the project is to promote the international significance of Pavlopetri ensuring its survival and protection for future generations. It is imperative that the fragile remains of this city are accurately recorded and preserved before they are lost forever. In the long term the local authorities in Neapolis in collaboration with the Pavlopetri team propose to establish an underwater archaeological park and a Centre of Public Awareness at Pavlopetri.
Photo Credits: Chris Doyal, Jon Henderson, Derek Irwin, Andy Torbet