22 shipwrecks discovered in one spot off the coast of Greece
Over half of the wrecks date to the Late Roman Period (circa 300-600 A.D.). Overall, the shipwrecks span from the Archaic Period (700-480 B.C.) to the Classical (480-323 B.C.) and Hellenistic (323-31 B.C.) through the Late Medieval Period (16th century).
"What is astonishing is not only the number of the shipwrecks but also the diversity of the cargoes, some of which have been found for first time," Koutsouflakis said.
The cargoes reveal long distance trades between the Black Sea, Aegean Sea, Cyprus, the Levant, and Egypt in all those periods. At least three ships carried a cargo of amphoras, or jars, that have not been found previously on shipwrecks.
These are Archaic period (700-480 B.C.) Samian amphoras, Late Roman (3rd-7th centuries A.D.) Sinopean (carrot-shaped) amphoras, and large 2nd century A.D. Black Sea amphoras that carried fish sauce.
The archaeologists mapped each shipwreck using photogrammetry to create 3D site plans. Representative artifacts were raised from each wreck site for scientific analysis and may go on displays in museums once conservation work is over.
According to the team, the volume of wrecks found around Fourni speaks more to the large amount of traffic passing along that route than about the islands being unsafe.
"Given the 22 wrecks and the date spread of the finds, it equals about one wreck per century -- a pretty safe bet for sailors," Campbell said.
"These wrecks were likely caught by a sudden storm or equipment failure, such as a broken rudder that prevented to control the ship," he added.
However, the number of wrecks is likely to increase. The archaeologists have only examined about 5 percent of the archipelago's coastline, and are confident that many more wrecks will be discovered.
"We plan to return to Fourni next year to continue the survey," Campbell said.