Greece’s underwater antiquity has been off-limits to the general public. Only archaeologists had access to these sites for fear that they would be looted. Now, an underwater museum has been created near the northern Greek island of Alonissos to make these sites accessible to divers.

The ancient shipwreck from the 5th century BC lies near Peristera, a small island with a population of 30 lying in close proximity to Alonissos. It is the first time that the area has been opened to recreational divers since it was first discovered in the 1990s. At the time, it was the largest wreck of its type to be found by archaeologists and was considered a significant find. Underwater tours to the Peristera shipwreck reveal numerous treasures that lie on the seabed of the wreck named after the nearby island of Peristera. The wreck is filled with amphoras and vases. Fish have made the artefacts their home.

Experts are still unsure about the reasons for the sinking and believe that either a fire had broken out on board or pirates had attacked. They have yet to determine what other treasures it might have carried in its hold.

‘It is very impressive. Even I, who have been working for years in underwater archaeology, the first time I dived on this wreck I was truly impressed,’ said Dimitris Kourkoumelis, the lead archaeologist on the project preparing the site for visitors.

In this photo taken on Sunday, April 7, 2019, ancient amphoras lie at the bottom of the sea from a 5th Century B.C. shipwreck, the first ancient shipwreck to be opened to the public in Greece, including to recreational divers who will be able to visit the wreck itself, near the coast of Peristera, Greece. Greece’s rich underwater heritage has long been hidden from view, off-limits to all but a select few, mainly archaeologists. Scuba diving was banned throughout the country except in a few specific locations until 2005, for fear that divers might loot the countless antiquities that still lie scattered on the country’s seabed. Now that seems to be gradually changing, with a new project to create underwater museums. (AP Photo/Elena Becatoros)

All that survives is the exposed area of the wooden ship creating a spectacular sight for those who dive, enjoying the artefacts in a different way to the experience one would have in a museum.

Divers can go as deep as 28 metres and have begun with small groups. Divers are briefed about the site and conditions of the dive before being taken on a short boat ride from Steni Valla to the site.
Signs have been created so that divers can get more information about the site as they swim around the wreck.

So far, feedback has been positive. Non-divers can also enjoy the experience through virtual reality on land.
Three other shipwrecks in the Pagasitic Gulf in central Greece are also included in the EU-funded project which is part of the BlueMed program. It is hoped that the programme will expand to Italy and Croatia.