|Underwater archaeological park at the ancient harbour of Amathus|
The MAritime ARchaeological REsearch Laboratory (MARELab), University of Cyprus, the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus and the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research of Cyprus, have undertaken a project for the promotion of the ancient harbour and the Marine Protected Area of Amathus, in the framework of the European Regional Development Fund programme ANDIKAT (http://www.greece-cyprus.eu/https://andikat.eu/). The programme, which is co-funded by the European Union and national resources from Greece and Cyprus (Interreg VA Greece – Cyprus Program “2014-2020”), aims at developing a network of dive trails in coastal areas of Greece and Cyprus, as a tool to protect the marine environment, and raise public awareness for the preservation of the natural and cultural heritage.
The ancient harbour of Amathus was selected for the creation of the first underwater archaeological park in Cyprus because of its unique character. It is one of the best-preserved ancient harbour structures in the eastern Mediterranean, and the only such site in Cyprus that has not been disturbed by contemporary uses. The date and archaeological value of the harbour have already been well established, during the excavation that took place in the 1980s by the French Archaeological School at Athens, under the direction of Jean-Yves Empereur. Finally, as the preserved architectural remains are located in shallow waters (0,80-1,50m) and close to the shore, the archaeological site is easily accessible to the wider public. It is important to note that it was exactly this particular character of the ancient harbour that prompted its incorporation in the Marine Protected Area of Amathus, thus creating ideal conditions for the creation of an underwater park.
Acknowledging that the cultural and natural heritage constitute an integral part of the unique underwater landscape of Amathus, some very soft interventions were carefully chosen, with the mildest possible effect to the environment. Information boards on land as well as underwater with details on the site will encourage visitors to swim around the ancient harbour. Moreover, a mobile application will be developed in the framework of the programme to provide to the public further information about the area. In order to expose, document, monitor and preserve the surviving parts of the ancient harbour moles, it was deemed necessary to remove sections of the marine flora that covered them. Particular emphasis was put on Posidonia oceanica, a protected species of seagrass. Only a very small section of the large Posidonia field of the harbour basin will be removed, after a special permission granted by the authorities (the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research, and the Scientific Committee of the Department of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment). The decision also acknowledged the importance and the long-term benefits of preserving and promoting this unique underwater archaeological site in Cyprus. In this way, for the first time the public will be offered the opportunity to visit a submerged ancient monument, experience its unique ecosystem and comprehend its multiple significance.