About the Author

Derek Irwin was born in Ireland. He studied Ancient History and Archaeology in Paris before moving to Greece to carry out research for his PhD thesis on life aboard ancient merchant ships. He is a diving instructor and technical diver and has participated in underwater excavations of a number of ancient and medieval shipwrecks and submerged sites around the Mediterranean and Black Sea. He has published on themes related to ancient shipping and shipboard life including religion of ancient sailors and cooking aboard ancient merchant ships. He has collaborated with a number of institutes and universities including the Hellenic Institute for Marine Archaeology, The Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, the Illyrian Coastal Exploration Project, RPM Nautical Foundation, The Albanian Centre for Marine Research, Thetis Foundation, the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology in Zadar, Croatia, The Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies, University of Haifa, University of Birmingham, Nottingham University, and the Centre for Underwater Archaeology, Kiev University. He currently lives in the south of France.

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Excavations, Field Schools & Surveys 

Delos Shipwrecks Survey, Delos, 2017, Ecole Francaise d’Athènes and Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture.

Fourni Underwater Survey, Fournoi Korseon, Greece, 2016, Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture.

The Illyrian Coastal Exploration Project Field School, UNESCO International Centre for Underwater Archaeology, Zadar, Croatia, 2014.

The Illyrian Coastal Exploration Project Field School, UNESCO International Centre for Underwater Archaeology, Zadar, Centre for Conservation and Archaeology, Cetinje, RPM Nautical Foundation & Transylvania University, Croatia & Montenegro, 2013.

Underwater Archaeology Field School, Transylvania University, Albanian Centre for Marine Research & RPM Nautical Foundation, Albania, 2012.

Underwater Excavation of 5-6th century CE Shipwreck, Dor, Israel, 2012 (Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies, University of Haifa, Israel)

Underwater Excavation of 4th century BCE Shipwreck, Mazotos, Cyprus, 2011 (University of Cyprus & THETIS Foundation)

Underwater Excavation of submerged Bronze Age settlement, Pavlopetri, Greece, 2011 (University of Nottingham & Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture)

Underwater Excavation of Mycenaean shipwreck, Modi, Greece, 2010 (Hellenic Institute of Marine Archaeology)

Underwater Excavation of submerged Bronze Age settlement, Pavlopetri, Greece, 2010 (University of Nottingham & Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture)

Underwater Excavation of 4th century BCE Shipwreck, Mazotos, Cyprus, 2010 (University of Cyprus & THETIS Foundation)

Underwater Excavation of possible Minoan Shipwreck, Pseira, Crete, 2009 (INSTAP funded)

Underwater Excavation of possible Minoan Shipwreck, Pseira, Crete, 2008 (INSTAP funded)

Underwater Archaeological Excavation of Pisan shipwreck, Bay of Sudak, Centre for Underwater Archaeology, University of Kiev, Ukraine, 2006

Publications & Talks

“Illyrian Coastal Exploration Program Underwater Field School” in Submerged Heritage 3: A Yearbook of the ICUA, Dec. 2013. (co-author)

“Albanian Center for Marine Research Underwater Sciences Field School” in Submerged Heritage 3, A Yearbook of the ICUA, Dec. 2013. (co-author)

“Religion aboard ancient merchant ships”, Journal of Hellenic Religion Vol. 6 (May 2013).

“Cooking aboard merchant ships in the Classical World”, Mariner’s Mirror Vol. 98:1 (2012).

Review of The Athenian Agora Site Guide. Fifth Edition, Camp II, John McK., Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 201012.13.

“Sailing with Arms in the Classical World”, Mariner’s Mirror Vol. 96:30 (2010).

Review of Pseira X: the excavation of Block AF, Betancourt, Philip P. and Costis Davaras (eds.), Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2010.07.54.

Η ζωή στα εμπορικά πλοία στον αρχαίο ελληνικό κόσμο”, Αρχαιολογίαonline, January, 2010, (available http://www.arxaiologia.gr/site/content.php?sel=2)

PhD dissertation “La vie à bord des navires de commerce dans le monde grec”, Université Paris 10, Dec, 2008, (unpublished).

“Underwater Archaeology & Life Aboard Ancient Merchant Ships: Interpreting finds”, International Centre for Underwater Archaeology (Under the auspices  of UNESCO), Zadar, Croatia,14th-28th June, 2014.

“Ancient Ship Construction Techniques”, International Centre for Underwater Archaeology (Under the auspices of UNESCO), Zadar, Croatia, 14th-28th June, 2014.

“Underwater Excavation Techniques”, Regional Center for Underwater Demining, Bijela, Montenegro, 15th-19th July, 2013.

“Navigational Aids in the Ancient Greek World”, A Sense of Direction Symposium: New Research in the History of Navigation, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, 6th-7th May, 2010.

 

Ancient History Timeline (approx.)

3300 BCE Early Bronze Age

2000 BCE Middle Bronze Age

1600 BCE Late Bronze Age

1200 BCE Iron Age

800 BCE Archaic Greece

550 BCE Classical Greece

509 BCE Roman Republic

323 BCE Hellenistic Period

27 BCE Roman Empire

284 CE Late Antiquity

476 CE Fall of the Roma Empire

5th C. CE Early Middle Ages begins

4th c. BCE Mazotos shipwreck. ARU, Photo University of Cyprus

4th c. BCE Mazotos shipwreck. ARU, Photo University of Cyprus

Diving on shipwrecks in ancient times

Diving on shipwrecks goes back further than you might expect. Herodotus tells us that around 500 BCE, the Greek sculptor Scyllias and his daughter Cyana were employed as salvage divers for the Persian king Xerxes. In ancient Roman times urinatores dived on shipwrecks to attempt to salvage goods. Salvaging wrecks became very organised in Roman times and fees were regulated. In shallow water where the urinatores could stand, the share was only one-tenth the value of the goods. From 3.6 to 7.6 metres, the share was one-third and in depths of over 7.6 metres the salvor’s share was one-half of all goods recovered. (The name urinatores may come from the fact that the divers urinated a lot due to pressure under water).

Modern Greek stamp showing Alexander the Great diving

Modern Greek stamp showing Alexander the Great diving

close-up of restored hull of Ma'agan Mikhael classical shipwreck, Hecht Museum

close-up of restored hull of Ma'agan Mikhael classical shipwreck, Hecht Museum

Reconstruction of the 4th c. BCE Kyrenia ship, Thalassa Museum, Ayia Napa, Cyprus

Reconstruction of the 4th c. BCE Kyrenia ship, Thalassa Museum, Ayia Napa, Cyprus

Joni Wreck, Albania photo: RPMN/ACMR

Joni Wreck, Albania photo: RPMN/ACMR

SCUBA (or Aqua-Lung)

Did you know that SCUBA (self contained underwater breathing system) was first used on a shipwreck site by Jacques Cousteau and Fernand Benoit when they investigated the 3rd c. BCE shipwreck at Grand Congloué between1951 and 1957.
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