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The Kerynia ship: the elderly trade ship sank around 2300 years ago


By Spiros Tzelepis

The history of the wreck and the reconstruction of its replica

In 1967 a group of American archaeologists were invited by the government of Cyprus to carry out underwater research of the coast of the island. To their surprise, this adventure led to the discovery of an elderly trading ship of the late classical period, built before Alexander the Great was born.

Until this discovery archaeologists had very little knowledge concerning the construction of Greek merchant vessels. The Kyrenia ship is the finest preserved ship of the classical period and about 60% of her total area has survived and has been recorded in every detail.

The team worked for about 8 years to raise and reassemble the ship. According to the scientists at the time of her sinking the Kerynia ship had been an old and much repaired vessel; it had been travelling for almost 100 years and had undergone at least three major repair operations.

The ship's cargo indicates her function as a tramp merchantment working in the Aegean coast. About 400 amphoras were revealed, most of which are Rhodian wine jars probably taken on board at Rhodes while other amphoras were from the island of Samos which seems to be the ship's port of origin on its last journey. A collection of millstones come from Nisyros, another island along the way; they were stowed below as ballast. The remains of around 10.000 almonds may have come from Cyprus and were dated to 288 BC.

Tableware and kitchen equipment found indicate that the crew consisted of four people. Since most of the crockery was made in Rhodes, it is believed that this may have been the ship's home port. It seems that the captain and the crew lived in cramped conditions among the cargo. Remnants of food found in the wreck-site area included almonds, hazelnuts, lentils, garlic, sprigs of dried herbs, grapes and figs.

The crew's personal possessions weren't found which led to two thoughts: Either they had escaped with their belongings when the ship went down or the ship had succumbed to an attack by pirates (since evidence that the ship has a violent end was found) who took the possessions and sold the crew as slaves.

The assembly of all the pieces was carried out By Pr Steff, whose work made possible the ship's replication in 1985. All the archaeological and technical knowledge that came out of his work led to the construction of a full-scale replica of the ship named Kyrenia II. The whole work began in 1982 when the scientists undertook the difficult task using the construction techniques practiced in antiquity.

Kerynia II floated into the sea in May 1985. She was then shipped to the United States to participate in America's 4th of July celebration. After completing her sail up to the Hudson River, Kyrenia was shipped home to Mediterranean and on September 6th 1986 she departed from Athens sailing to Cyprus. Since that time she has visited all the major ports on the southern coast of Cyprus. The evil-averting eyes painted on each side of the bow recall a tradition seen in numerous contemporary vase paintings.


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Reconstruction: July-August-September 2002

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