UNESCO Press Conference: Three New Shipwrecks discovered in the Skerki Bank

2023 06 02


The international scientific mission, composed of archaeologists from Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, France, Italy, Morocco, Spain and Tunisia, aimed to document the remains of shipwrecks dating from ancient times to the 20th century using multibeam sonar to map the area, and Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles (ROVs) to document artefacts on the sea floor.

Keith Reef on the Tunisian continental shelf is the most treacherous zone of the Skerki Bank for ships to navigate, due to its rocky elevations some of which almost reach the surface. Using multibeam sonar, the UNESCO-coordinated mission conducted the first thorough study of the ocean floor and discovered three shipwrecks one dating from between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD, and the other two from the 19th or 20th centuries. All three were previously unknown to archaeologists. On the Italian continental shelf, the goal was to document three Roman wrecks, discovered in the 1980s-2000s, in high resolution images. 

During the press conference, the results of two projects conducted respectively in Tunisia and Italy will be presented by expedition researchers, and the opportunities and challenges at stake will be highlighted by Alison Faynot, UNESCO’s underwater archaeologist.

The French Department of Underwater Archaeological Research (DRASSM) will also present the cutting edge resources it deployed on the mission, including the research vessel Alfred Merlin, equipped with high-tech underwater imaging and mapping equipment. 

A photo exhibition and a documentary film

Following the press conference, journalists are welcome to attend these events at UNESCO Headquarters: 

·        5.15pm: press access to the exhibition featuring photographs by Angel Fitor documenting the international underwater archaeological mission.

·        7.30pm: The preview of a documentary film on the missions produced by GEDEON Programmes in partnership with the CANAL+ Group, with CNC support.


Key Figures

·        8 countries came together on this mission

·        The mission lasted 14 days 

·        20 archaeologists were on board

·        Two underwater robots were employed to survey the ocean floor: Arthur, which spent: 21 hours underwater at depths of 700-900m, and Hilarion, which spent 18 hours underwater 

·        400 hours of video footage were filmed

·        And over 20 000 photos taken 

·        An area of 10 km squared was covered by multibeam, a type of sonar used to map the seabed, allowing for a high-definition survey.

Source, Unescopresse


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