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Coordinates: 36°30′59″N 22°59′16″E / 36.51625542697151°N 22.987748828807526°E / 36.51625542697151; 22.987748828807526

Position of Pavlopetri.

The city of Pavlopetri (Greek: Παυλοπέτρι), underwater off the coast of southern Laconia in Peloponnese, Greece, is about 5,000 years old, making it one of the oldest submerged lost cities, as well as the oldest in the Mediterranean sea. Pavlopetri is unique in having an almost complete town plan, including streets, buildings, and tombs.


Pavlopetri (or Paulopetri) literally translates to Paul's Stone and is a direct reference to St. Paul, the Christian apostle and martyr who traveled far and wide to spread Christianity.[1]

Discovery and location[edit]

Discovered in 1967 by Nicholas Flemming and mapped in 1968 by a team of archaeologists from Cambridge, Pavlopetri is located between the islet of Pavlopetri and the Pounta coast of Laconia on the Peloponnese peninsula. The site is northeast of the village on the island of Elafonisos. The archeological site as well as the islet and the surrounding sea area are within the region of the Elafonisos Municipality, the old "Onou Gnathos" peninsula (according to Pausanias).


Originally, the ruins were dated to the Mycenaean period, 1600–1100 BC but later studies showed an older occupation date starting no later than 2800 BC, so it also includes early Bronze Age middle Minoan and transitional material.[2] It is now believed that the town was submerged around 1000 BC[3] by the first of three earthquakes that the area suffered.[4] The area never re-emerged, so it was neither built-over nor disrupted by agriculture. Although eroded over the centuries, the town layout is as it was thousands of years ago. The site is under threat of damage by boats dragging anchors, as well as by tourists and souvenir hunters.[5][6]


The fieldwork of 2009 was largely to map the site. It is the first submerged town digitally surveyed in three dimensions.[7] Sonar mapping techniques developed by military and oil prospecting organizations have aided recent work.[8][9] The city has at least 15 buildings submerged in 3 to 4 metres (9.8–13.1 ft) of water. The newest discoveries in 2009 alone cover 9,000 m2 (2.2 acres).[7][10]

Four more fieldwork sessions were planned in October 2009, in collaboration with the Greek government as a joint project aimed at excavations. Also working alongside the archaeologists (from the University of Nottingham)[11] are a team from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, who aim to take underwater archaeology into the 21st century. Several unique robots have been developed to survey the site in various ways. One of the results of the survey was to establish that the town was the centre of a thriving textile industry (from the many loom weights found in the site). Also many large pitharis pots (pottery jars) from Crete were excavated, indicating a major trading port.[12]

UNESCO site[edit]

The city of Pavlopetri is part of the underwater cultural heritage as defined by the UNESCO in the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. All traces of human existence underwater which are one hundred years old or more are protected by the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. This convention aims at preventing the destruction or loss of historic and cultural information and looting. It helps states' parties to protect their underwater cultural heritage with an international legal framework.[13]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The work of the British-Australian archaeological team was assembled in an hour-long BBC documentary video, "City Beneath the Waves: Pavlopetri", broadcast by BBC Two in 2011.[14]
  • The site and its history are featured in the "Secrets of the Sunken Empire" episode of the Science Channel TV program Unearthed (season 8, episode 7), originally broadcast on January 3, 2021.[15]
  • The ancient site and its underwater mapping is featured in "Drain the Oceans: Legends of Atlantis" (season 1, episode 5), by National Geographic airing on June 25, 2018.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nick Kampouris (2019-10-11). "Pavlopetri, Greece's Most Ancient Underwater City". Greek Reporter.
  2. ^ "World's oldest submerged town dates back 5,000 years". Paleontology & Archaeology. e! Science News. 2009-10-16. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  3. ^ Helena Smith (2009-10-16). "Lost Greek city that may have inspired Atlantis myth gives up secrets". The Guardian.
  4. ^ Leadbetter, Russell. In praise of... underwater archaeology. The Herald 11 Oct 2011
  5. ^ Henderson, Jon (2009-05-14). "Race to Save World's Oldest Underwater Town". Green Room Blog. AlphaGalileo. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  6. ^ Henderson, Jon (2009-05-12). "Race to preserve the world's oldest submerged town". AlphaGalileo. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  7. ^ a b Henderson, Jon (2009-05-12). "Race to preserve the world's oldest submerged town". University of Nottingham. Archived from the original on 2011-11-23. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  8. ^ BBC News "Sea gives up secrets to experts", 16 October 2009; accessed 16 October 2009.
  9. ^ BBC News "Pavlopetri: A window on to Bronze Age suburban life", 8 October 2011
  10. ^ Henderson, Jon (2009-10-16). "World's oldest submerged town dates back 5,000 years". University of Nottingham. Archived from the original on 2012-07-07. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  11. ^ "Jon Henderson - The University of Nottingham". 1998-09-27. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  12. ^ "City Beneath the Waves: Pavlopetri". BBC. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
  13. ^ UNESCO, convention on the protection of underwater cultural heritage
  14. ^ "City Beneath the Waves: Pavlopetri"
  15. ^ "Secrets of the Sunken Empire" TV Maze
  16. ^ "Drain the Oceans: Legends of Atlantis"IMDB

External links[edit]