Antiquities Found on Shipwreck That Carried Elgin Marbles

Excavation of a 200-year-old shipwreck confirms Lord Elgin was taking antiquities, as well as sculptures during his voyage from the Acropolis to London.

Lord Elgin collected other Greek antiquities besides the sculptures taken from the Parthenon, finds a new survey at the site of the British ship Mentor, which sank off southern Greece more than 200 years ago carrying marbles from the Acropolis to London.

During a two-week search that ended on July 12, Greek Culture Ministry divers explored the wreck of the Mentor, off the island of Kythera and found three ancient handles of Rhodian amphoras and a small stone vessel. The handles date to the 3rd century B.C. and belong to jars made in the island of Rhodes. Two are stamped.

The findings confirm the theory that other antiquities besides the Partenon marbles were aboard the ship.

Photos: Diving Into a Mediterranean Shipwreck

The shipwreck has been investigated by underwater archaeologists since 2009 in the hope of finding other Parthenon marbles.

The ship was loaded with 16 crates of marble art removed from the Acropolis on behalf of Thomas Bruce, the Scottish Earl of Elgin. En-route to Malta and then the United Kingdom, the ship sank in 1802 during a storm at the entrance of the port of Avlaimona, on the island of Kythera.

Recovered soon after the sinking, the sculptures are now displayed with other Parthenon Marbles in London's British Museum. They are at the center of a long standing cultural dispute between Greece and Britain.

Greece contends that the 17 figures and 56 panels that once decorated Athens' most sacred shrine, the Parthenon, were stolen in 1801 by Lord Elgin, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire between 1799 and 1803. Britain claims that Lord Elgin had received permission from the Ottoman Empire to take the marbles.

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As with the other explorations, the July underwater excavation aimed at establishing whether there are still remnants of artworks near the ship.

"This year the excavation focused on the western boundary of the surviving portion of the hull, towards the bow, where two fragments of Egyptian sculptures were found in 2013," the Greek Culture Ministry said in a statement.

Carried out with the support of the Kytherian Research Group, an Australian foundation, and under the direction of archaeologist Dimitrios Kourkoumelis, the excavation concentrated on a 17 by 17-foot area.

Poorly preserved wood fragments, possibly related to the hull of the ship, were recovered along with objects related to the operation of the vessel such as a pulley, an intact hourglass, and several fragments of dishes and everyday utensils.

Among the personal items belonging to the 12 men aboard, crew and passengers, were a glass decorative stamp bearing the letter "B," a bone pawn chess piece and fragments of a bone comb.

Image: Searching the wreck site. Credit: Fardoulis.