Site documentation material was provided by the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities (EUA)
Peristera is an islet near Alonissos in the North Sporades, a cluster of islands in Greece (central Aegean Sea). Other names of Peristera are “Aspro” and “Xero”. The name “Xero” was given by the Alonnisos habitants, because compared to Alonnisos it is much drier and has less vegetation. The island is an ideal place for excursions due to the beautiful beaches and the channel formed in the sea area. It is also one of the refuges of the monk seal. According to the 2001 census, the island has 5 inhabitants, who are shepherds. Prehistoric remains and ancient tombs are located on the island of Peristera.
The shipwreck was located at the north of Kokkalia bay near the west rocky coast of Peristera by the fisherman and inhabitant of the island, Dimitris Maurikis, and was indicated to the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities (EUA) in 1985. The shipwreck was excavated by Dr. Elpida Hadjidaki, archaeologist and Head of the Ephorate, during the years 1992-1993, 1999, 2000-2001. This is the first accessible UCH site in Greece. The shipwreck lies at a maximum depth of 30 – 32 meters. The visibility is often clear and the shipwreck can be seen from few meters under the surface of the water. Depending on the weather as well as currents and waves conditions, visibility can be reduced.
The underwater antiquities
This merchant ship is dated around the last quarter of the 5th c. B.C. based on the artifacts and the transport amphorae which have been recovered. This large wooden merchant ship of the classical period is considered to be one of the largest of that period and at the same time an evidence of the importance of trade in the classical period. It is estimated that it was able to carry three to four thousand amphorae, which were one of the main trade products during the ancient times. An extremely massive and impressive pile of transport amphorae still remains on the seabed, which almost still keeps the shape of the wooden hull of the ship.
The cargo was mainly composed of transport amphorae, mostly the so called “Mendean” type transport amphorae, as well as “Peparithian” type (probably produced at the ancient Peparithos – modern Skopelos). Wine and oil were two of the main products that were transported during ancient times and especially within transport amphorae, as well as other products (pottery, grain, wood, etc.). So, probably these precious products constituted the main cargo of the ship.
It is very difficult and aleatory to determine the exact route of the ship as well as the harbor of its final destination. Moreover, the simplest “trade model”, the well-known coastal trade (cabotage), cannot be considered as the most possible solution to explain the route of the ship, due to its large dimensions (the dimensions of the pile of amphorae are about 30m length and 10m width) and the difficulties to maneuver such a large ship in reduced areas as often are ancient harbors.
So, the identification of the origin of the main cargo and eventually the ports of call cannot absolutely determine the route and the origin of the ship. The final destination of the ship is also uncertain. Even if one of the most important markets of the period was Athens, where a lot of products were concentrated, we cannot be certain that Piraeus, Athens’s harbor, was the final destination of this ship, even if this hypothesis could be plausible.
Finally, the total absence of written sources and information about an accident, as it is for all the ancient wrecks, can’t help us to understand exactly what the reasons of its loss were and what exactly the route of the ship was.