European Research Program for the Underwater Cultural Heritage of the Mediterranean

The Maritime Archaeological Research Laboratory (MareLab) of the Department of History and Archeology of the University of Cyprus, is participating in a three-year research project worth 2.7 M €, entitled iMareCulture, coordinated by Dr. Dimitris Skarlatos, Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering and Geoinformatics Engineering of the Cyprus University of Technology. This proposal was submitted for the H2020 CULT-COOP-08-2016 call: Virtual museums and social platform on European digital heritage, memory, identity and cultural interaction, under the Research and Innovation (RIA) actions.
iMareCulture focuses on strengthening the European identity, by emphasizing its underwater cultural heritage. Shipwrecks and harbours, irrefutable witnesses to the rich maritime activity that has brought together all Mediterranean people, during their long history, are usually remotely located and inaccessible to the general public. The aim of the program is to develop innovative virtual and augmented reality methods to bring underwater archaeological sites closer to non-experts. Web applications as well as applications at museums will give visitors the opportunity to tour the site of an underwater wreck. An underwater Tablet device using augmented reality will be developed to facilitate underwater visits to the sites themselves.
MareLab's role in the program is multi-faceted. It includes the validation and verification of the archaeological data used in the applications regarding ancient ships, routes and trade and also of the underwater archaeological research and excavation methods. The underwater excavation of the Mazotos shipwreck will play a key role, as it will be used as a point of reference for the digital applications related to ancient shipwrecks. The selection criteria were in fact the pioneering methods of documentation and excavation implemented at the site from the beginning of its investigation.
Further to CUT and the University of Cyprus, the scientific team comprises of other universities, foundations and small and medium-sized enterprises from eight European and American countries, with experience in a variety of submarine recordings and documentation:
The program is supported by the International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS), CIPA Heritage Documentation, TEXAS A&M University, CONCODRIA University, National Technical University of Athens, International Council of Monuments and Sites CY (ICOMOS), Europeana Hellas.
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Symela Sidiropoulou, Culture from the Seabed (Politismos apo to vitho). Politis, 9 March 2008: 30 (Greek).
Shipwreck's treasures see light of day, Cyprus Mail, 30 May 2008.
Big archaeological discovery: amphorae with wine at Cyprus seabed (Megali archeologiki anakalipsi: amforeis me krasi sto vitho this Kiprou), Politis, Saturday 31 May 2008: 71 (Greek)
Ancient shipwreck reveals amphorae, Dialogue, Friday 6 June 2008: 13
Marina Schiza, Rare findings at the underwater excavations of Mazotos (Spania evrimata stis enalies anaskafes Mazotou), Phileleutheros, Friday 13 August 2010: 32.
Underwater archaeological investigation at the Mazotos shipwreck (Ipovrichia archaiologiki erevna sto navagio tou Mazotou) Kathimerini, 21.12.2011 (Greek).
Underwater archaeological investigation at the Mazotos shipwreck (Ipovrichia archaiologiki erevna sto navagio tou Mazotou), Phileleutheros, 8 October 2012 (Greek).
Maria Thermou, Cargo with Chian wine amphorae at the shipwreck of the clasical period in Cyprus (Fortio me chiotikous amphoreis krasiou sto navagio tis klasikis epochis stin Kipro), To Vima, 10 October 2012 (Greek).
Maritime Archaeology Outreach Bus (MOB): Cyprus

MARELab collaborates with the Maritime Archaeology Trust on the project "Maritime Archaeology Outreach Bus (MOB): Cyprus", funded by the Honor Frost Foundation. The project involves the design and mounting of the exhibition of the Maritime Οutreach Βus ( This is a mobile resource facility designed to host exhibitions on maritime cultural heritage. The MOB, based in the United Kingdom, visits schools and public spaces around the world.

The MOB exhibition, which will be both in Greek and in English, focuses on the maritime cultural heritage of the island. Particularly, the following general topics are presented: (1) How underwater archaeologists work, (2) Managing underwater antiquities, (3) Shipwrecks from Prehistory to this day, and (4) Anchorages, ports and harbours. The exhibition includes posters and photographs of sites in Cyprus, videos and computer presentations. Visitors will be encouraged to participate in educational activities in an area around the MOB, aiming to offer hands on experience on the topics of (1) diving, (2) underwater excavation, (3) documentation and interpretation of ancient shipwreck sites, and (4) ancient shipbuilding.

The Maritime Outreach Bus will be visiting schools and public places in all the districts of Cyprus from the 5th of May, until the 15th of June 2017.

For the detailed programme of the visits click here.



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Educational Programmes at Primary Schools
MA.RE.Lab conducts educational programmes at primary schools aiming to inform people and raise public awareness on issues concerning the maritime archaeological heritage and the nautical tradition of the island.
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Researcher's Night
2012-09-28-IPE-VRADIA EREVNITI-009                  2012-09-28-IPE-VRADIA EREVNITI-014
Demesticha, S. and A. Demetriou. Ancient Shipwrecks in Cyprus: Reaching out to the public. Webinar no 11, ICOMOS ICUCH (International Committee on the Underwater Cultural Heritage), 21 October 2021.
Demesticha, S. The Mazotos Shipwreck Project, Cyprus: Challenges and perspectives of a holistic approach to shipwreck archaeology in the 21st century. 55th Public Lecture Series - Spring Semester 2021: Celebrating 30 Years of Research at the Archaeological Research Unit, 1991-2021. Nicosia, 1 March 2021
Demesticha, S. Underwater Archaeology: Excavation at the Mazotos Shipwreck in Cyprus Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, Thursday, February 17, 2011. Event organized in association with the exhibition, "Cyprus: Crossroads of Civilizations," at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Republic of Cyprus.
Demesticha, S. Maritime archaeological research in Cyprus. University of Hamburg, Institute of Classical Archaeology, Hamburg, 17 November 2010.
Demesticha, S. Investigations at the Mazotos wreck. Notional Events for Science & Technology Agreement signed between Cyprus and the United States of America. Paphos, Cyprus, 4 February 2009.
Demesticha, S. The Mazotos shipwreck: 1 year of investigations, 2350 years of history. Athens, Cyprus Embassy in Greece Lecture Series, 9 March 2009. (in Greek)
Demesticha, S. The Mazotos shipwreck. Community of Kiti, Cyprus, 13 March 2009. (in Greek)
Demesticha, S. Underwater archaeology in the University of Cyprus. Nicosia, the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lecture Series, 24 March 2009.
Demesticha, S. One year of underwater archaeology in the University of Cyprus and the Mazotos shipwreck. Nicosia, the Archaeological Research Unit of the University of Cyprus Lecture Series, 25 February 2008. (in Greek)
Demesticha, S. The underwater archaeological project at the Mazotos shipwreck. Limassol, THETIS Foundation, 19 June 2008. (in Greek)

It is a shipwreck of the ottoman period, located in the Nissia area, at the Famagusta cape, 28 metres below sea level. It is the only known shipwreck of that age in Cyprus, and one of the few that are being excavated in the Eastern Mediterranean. Consequently, its scientific research is important as it could shed light on issues related to shipbuilding techniques and naval activity in the Eastern Mediterranean, during that period.


The history of the shipwreck

The shipwreck was known among divers since 1980s, when diving activity started to develop in the area. However, the official report at the DoA was made in 1992. Since then, several attempts have been made to survey the site, with no follow up: In 1994, a team from the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of Greece visited the site, while in 2004 the private company Aquatec, in collaboration with the German Institution DEGUWA made attempts to survey and protect the site.

Gradually, during these years, knowledge of the site was widespread among the diving community. Due to its location, at a depth easily accessible to divers, and the 'friendly' waters of the area, it was transformed into an uncontrolled recreation spot. This resulted in its destruction and looting, and the subsequent destruction of valuable archaeological evidence.

All the above, along with the fact high percentage of preservation of the wooden hull, which remained exposed to the natural deterioration factors was what led MARELab to launch a research programme on the site, in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus. The Nissia Shipwreck Project aims to document and protect the site, to lift selected parts of the hull, and to implement new methods of in situ preservation.


Surface survey

The site was preliminary inspected in 2012. It stretches over an area of 24 x 11 metres, on a sandy seabed. It is surrounded by posidoneia fields with a number of antiquities lying beneath. Three cannons were documented as well as a notable number of bricks and free wooden sections of the hull.




During the first excavation field season at the shipwreck, in September 2014, two trenches were opened. The first is located one in the area of the cannon at the NE of the site, away from the shipwreck's concentration, which was lifted and is now being conserved at the Conservation Laboratory of underwater archaeological material of the Department of Antiquities The second trench was opened in the east extremity of the main concentration, tangent to the rest two visible cannons of the shipwreck. The aim was to investigate the state of preservation of the ancient hull which is being preserved below the surface finds. Excavation revealed a small part of the side of the hull (frame timbers and hull planks), in a good state of preservation.

During excavation, several movable finds were revealed which were documented and lifted. The finds include wooden rigging-elements (a deadeye), metal objects (pistol bullets and a number of still non-diagnostic metal concretions), ceramics (an amphora, open glazed vessels and closed vessels, some with incised decoration), glass tableware, bricks and stones. Further study of these objects could shed light on issues relating to the ship, its dating as well as on the daily life on board. All the finds were transferred to the Conservation Laboratory of the DoA were they are being conserved.

In addition, selected timbers were lifted, samples of which were sent for dendrochronology and species analysis.

The site was documented in collaboration with the Department of Civil Engineering and Geomatics, the Cyprus University of Technology (under the direction of Dr. Demetrios Skarlatos), using 3D digital photogrammetry methods.

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In situ preservation

The Nissia Shipwreck Project also focuses on the study of the methods of in situ preservation of organic material on two axes (1) In situ preservation of the excavation trench and (2) Experiments for the preservation of organic material on the seabed.

(1) In situ preservation of the excavation trench

Following the completion of the excavation, the trench was reburied using fine sand, geotextile and sandbags. The aim is to create an anaerobic environment which does not permit the development of wood corrosion factors (oxygen, currents, sea flora and fauna).

(2) Experiments for the preservation of organic material on the seabed

Experiments were conducted with modern wood as well as with sections of timbers from the shipwreck. Concerning the first case, three specimens of modern wood (cedar, oak and pine) were buried in various depths in the sand and were covered using different materials (sand, geotextile and a combination of the two methods). In the second case, a timber taken from the site was cut into two pieces: the first piece was transferred to the Conservation Laboratory for conservation, while the second was reburied in the position where it was located.

The aim is to locate and evaluate the most effective conditions of in situ preservation of organic material (wood). For this purpose, future visits on the site have been planned for the systematic observation of the wood in both cases.

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Public Archaeology

Nissia Shipwreck is widely known among the local diving community. Due to this diving activity for almost 35 years (by locals as well as by tourists), alternative ways of approach, signification and interpretation of the site have been gradually developed, which are not directly related with the scientific aspect of archaeology.

Over the last few years, it has been acknowledged that the active participation of the local community in the archaeological work could highlight various issues related to the interpretation of an archaeological site. In this framework, one of the objectives of the project is to encourage the participation of the local community in the various phases of archaeological research. The attempts to approach the local community also aimed to increase awareness on issues related to the significance of underwater cultural heritage.

As a result, communication and collaboration was gradually developed between the archaeological research team and the divers who had been visiting the site in the past. A characteristic example is that of Mr. Michalis Charalambous from Nicosia. Following personal communication with him, Mr. Charalambous returned to the Department of Antiquities three pistol bullets he had taken from the site years ago.

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Students' training

The Nissia Shipwreck Project aimed to act as a platform for students' training. To that end, students from Cyprus as well as from abroad participated in the project and had the possibility to contribute actively in a shipwreck excavation and to have the unique experience of scientific work.

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Department of Antiquities

Department of Civil Engineering and Geomatics, Cyprus University of Technology (CUT)



Honor Frost Foundation

EDT Offshore Companies

Purplesnow management Ltd

Paralimni Municipality




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 The Honor Frost Foundation supports Maritime Archaeology at the University of Cyprus
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The 2018 excavation season at Mazotos Shipwreck