A team of researchers behind the Lechaion Harbor Project (LHP) has unveiled some of the mysteries of the partly-submerged ancient ruins of Lechaion, which used to be the harbour town of Corinth, Greece. Great monuments and structures of architectural value have been documented together with a discovery deemed to be surprising.
The evidence gleaned from the underwater ruins points at Lechaion’s development as a harbour town whose importance was nearly as pronounced as nearby city, Corinth, says archaeologist Bjørn Lovén, from the University of Copenhagen, and one of the authors.
Lechaion used to be one of the busy ports of ancient Corinth from the 6th century BCE to the 6th century CE. Ships setting out from there would sail to ports all across the Mediterranean, and other areas. This is what has allegedly contributed to Corinth becoming a wealthy city; archaeologist Lovén explains that it was thus commonly known as “Wealthy Corinth”.
The submerged part of the harbour was excavated and studied using technologies such as a 3D parametric sub-bottom profiler to carry out a digital, geophysical analysis of the area.
The researchers were surprised to find wooden chests that were well-preserved. They explain that they might have been barges that would contain concrete cargoes to be sunk together so that a strong base would be built, thereby blocking the force of the sea from the exposed region of the coast. This type of technology has been discovered for the first time in Greece. Otherwise, it is known that Roman imperial engineers adopted a similar approach in the first century BCE.
The caissons seem to have existed at the time of the Christian church Leonidas Basilica, as per carbon dating. The church was constructed during the middle of the 5th century CE, and so, this finding challenges the common assumption that harbour facilities were put together during the Greek and Roman times which were then only repaired and maintained during the Byzantine period.
The team also found that the original location of the ancient harbour might have been further seaward, around 45 meters from the modern shore. The researchers are currently studying the geophysics of the area to shed light on the sea-level change.
Lovén says that their research will provide additional information as to the evolution of the harbour contributing to the establishment of Corinth as an important economic and military power during the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine era.