The underwater port of Amathus (Limassol, Cyprus) A Hellenistic naval harbour - 2016

Jean-Yves Empereur

The submerged port of Amathus was excavated by a Franco-Cypriot team over three campaigns, from 1984-1986, with joint financing from the École Française d’Athènes and the Association for the Restoration of Ancient Port of Amathus (SALPA). The long  moles made of local stone still break the surface of the sea. Some 2O underwater  soundings led to an understanding of their structure and construction method
(exploiting the nearby quarries) and the chronology. This naval port of the early Hellenistic era was never used. It was built around 315 by Demetrius Poliorcetes (as attested by coins and ceramics), and was abandoned under Ptolemy I, perhaps without ever having been put into service. The sea retreated from the harbour basin, as demonstrated by the presence of freshwater wells and a saqieh of the Roman period that were in use during the 4th century AD. The abandonment of these latter can be dated by the fill (vases, noria jars, animal bones and coins) to the end of the 6th century AD and was caused by the sea level rising by about 2 m.

Several detailed reports were published at the time of initial examination and the definitive study of the excavations and material has been made possible by the financial support of the Honor Frost Foundation, which we would like to thank here. The volume  is published by the Ecole Française d’Athènes and includes testimonia on the port, a history of the excavations, descriptions of the soundings, the cutting of the blocks in the coastal quarries, the transport of these blocks and setting them in the moles, with a reconstitution of the transport and lifting machinery. Thereafter, we present studies of the ceramics from the 4th century BC and the 6th century AD, the metallic objects, the  coins, animal remains, and the remains of wood used in construction. The volume closes with a summary of the history of the port.