Submerged Cultural Heritage

Underwater Geo-Archaeology is the new, multi- and interdisciplinary, scientific field which brings marine geoscientists and engineers together with archaeologists in the research, discovery, documentation, reconstruction and protection of the Submerged Cultural Heritage. Deep Water Geo-Archaeology (shipwrecks), Coastal Geo-Archaeology (shallow submerged antiquities, including shipwrecks) and Continental Shelf Prehistory Geo-Archaeology (submerged prehistoric landscapes and archaeology) rely upon the integration of marine geological and geophysical experience, methodologies and equipment and the archaeological knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the deep- or shallow submerged cultural heritage and landscapes.

The Institute of Oceanography has a long record in Deep Water Geo-Archaeology surveys since 2000. Development of new methodologies and the use of deep-water state-of-the-art technology (ROVs, AUVs, submersible etc.) led to the discovery and detailed studying of ancient shipwrecks (Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and post-Byzantine) at depths up to 1400m in the Aegean and Ionian Seas as well in the Black Sea. Among the most spectacular results are the discovery and photomosaicing of a 4th century BCE shipwreck in the Aegean Sea and three shipwrecks of Roman and Post-Byzantine times at 1200-1400 m depth in the Ionian Sea.

Roman shipwreck
3rd Century AD Roman shipwreck, 1175m depth, Ionian Sea. ROV Max Rover recovers a marble vessel

Coastal Geo-Archaeology surveys include detailed and systematic mapping and imaging of the submerged Late-Neolithic – Early Helladic Pavlopetri, reconstruction of paleo-coastlines and shallow submerged landscape at various places, including the Bay of Vatika (SE Peloponnese), the area off Ancient Ramnous, the Bay of Koiladha off the Franchthi Cave and other surveys.

Continental Shelf Prehistory Geo-Archaeology aims at reconstructing the submerged prehistoric landscape exposed during the last and the older Ice Ages and discovering remains of the prehistoric cultural heritage on the seafloor. This now-drowned landscape preserves extensive records of palaeo-shorelines and other traces of the original landscape and archaeological records of human activity. The I.O. has co-coordinated the COST Action SPLASHCOS ( – Submerged Prehistoric Archaeology and Landscapes of the Continental Shelf) and has played a key role in the establishment of a Pan-European network of geoscientists, engineers and archaeologists focusing on submerged prehistoric landscapes and archaeology research.

Continental Shelf
The shelf occupies 27% of the surface of the Aegean. It extends between the shoreline and roughly 120 m depth and corresponds to the submerged prehistoric landscape, which was exposed above the sea-level during the Last Ice Age.

This was complemented with the publication in late 2014 of the European Marine Board Position Paper 21, entitled “Land Beneath the Waves – Submerged landscapes and sea level change” (, resulted from the SUBLAND working group with IO as key member. As a direct result of the above activities and efforts of IO, the significance of the research on Submerged Prehistoric Landscapes has been widely recognized: EMODNET Geology 3 (2017-2021) has established a new Work Package (WP8) aiming at producing cartographic representation of submerged palaeo-landscape features at various scales and time frames.

Systematic research projects of IO have focused on several areas in the Aegean and Ionian Seas including the Terrasubmersa project (, the Black Sea (Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project, and the Southern Red Sea (DISPERSE project,

The I.O. promotes educational activities on underwater geoarchaeology with the aim to build a new generation of researchers who will be able to move across the boundaries between marine geosciences and underwater archaeology.

Skip to content