Move Over Pompeii

We've long known about Pompeii, the ancient Roman town marvelously preserved after it was buried in lava from the 79 C.E. eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. But there's another ancient city that has withstood the test of time in a more precarious position.

University of Nottingham's Jon Henderson is hurrying to put together a mission to digitally map the nearly 4,000-year-old Greek town of Pavlopetri, before there's nothing left to record. 

The town sits under three to four meters of water not far off the Greek coast. Its preserved streets and buildings date back to at least 2800 B.C.E., and its more recent graves date to the Mycenaean period--the Bronze Age of Homeric lore.

No archaeologists have worked at the site in four decades, but Pavlopetri is close to popular tourist areas making it susceptible to damage from snorkelers and boats in addition to the slow wear and tear of seawater.

Henderson has permission from the Greek government to make his dig--er, dive--and he has the technology. His team will use acoustic scanners to map the ruins of the town. Firms attempting offshore energy exploration originally developed these mapping technologies, but Henderson's team plans to use them to make a digital 3D map of Pavlopetri, accurate down to the millimeters. All Henderson needs now is the money—he and his team have a little more fundraising to do before their multi-year project can commence. 

If all goes according to plan, the study would see the light of day in five years. But the archaeological innovations could bear fruit sooner—if the mapping technique is a viable one for underwater archaeologists, they could start using it to study shipwrecks, sunken cities, and other mysteries buried in the deep.

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