The Early Helladic Cargo Site at the Dokos island was found in 1975 by Peter Throckmorton.
In 1975 and 1977 HIMA undertook
two preliminary surveys at the site ynder the direction of George
From 1989 to 1992 the Institute conducted
the excavation of the site; more than 15,000 pottery sherds,
millstones and other artefacts have been raised and transporetd
to the Museum of Spetses for study and conservation.
The pottery from the Dokos cargo
site, which all appears to belong to a late phase of EH II, includes
all the basic EH II types known from numerous land sites as well
as various kinds of household utensils. We think, however, that
the range of shapes will prove to be even wider when the cleaning
and study of the thousands of sherds so far recovered have been
The commonest shapes are bowls, sauceboats,
basins, wide-mouthed jars with plastic bands, and amphoras; utensils
include "spit-supports, braziers, and baking trays.
An interesting feature of the pottery
so far studied from the 1989 and 1990 campaigns was the presence
of Cycladic elements; this confirms the initial impression formed
of the pottery at the time of the discovery of the cargo in 1975.
The three commonest shapes are bowls,
sauceboats and amphoras, which are represented by many dozens
of sherds; the first two are the commonest EH II types in southern
and central Greece and on the islands of the Saronic and Argolic
gulfs (for a good summary of EH II pottery, see Caskey 1960, 290-292,
fig. 1; 1968, 315, Lerna III).
In the course of reconnaissance dives
made in 1989 west of the main site two stone slabs were found,
each with a perforation near its edge.
The first (A144), which is roughly
triangular in shape, was at a depth of 34 m and some 33 m west
of point 8 on the perimeter of the wreck . It was lying relatively
close to the shore on a rocky bottom with patches of sand.
The second (A155), nearly circular
in shape, was found at a depth of 38 m, 46 m west of point 8 on
the wreck perimeter and 14 m southwest of the first slab and on
a similar bottom . When they were found, both slabs were wedged
among the rocks with their perforations uppermost and pointing
eastward in the direction of the wreck. Both slabs were photographed
in situ and their positions fixed by measuring their distances
from different points on the perimeter of the main site and from
Before they were raised, we tried
an experiment: ropes were fastened to the holes and two people
standing on the diving raft stationed over the middle of the site
attempted to haul in the slabs. We found that it took a great
effort by the two people just to shift the slabs from their position.
Next we tried to heave them up, and the two team members stationed
a boat directly over the two slabs and hauled first on one and
then on the other of the ropes. This time it required less exertion
to move the slabs, but still called for a considerable effort.
The initial observations made at
the time the slabs were found and the subsequent examination of
them after they were raised both suggest that they are in all
probability Early Age Bronze stone anchors and directly associated
with the Dokos underwater site.
All these facts, in addition to the
breaks and edge damage which are clear evidence of their repeated
use, rule out the likelihood that they were weights used by divers,
although Honor Frost does not exclude that possibility. Stones
used as diving weights are usually left on the bottom after the
dive, and in any case do not suffer the kind of wear and tear
that would cause this kind of damage.
2. Bearing in mind their distances
from the site of the cargo site and their positions to the west
of it, it is not unreasonable to suggest that they probably belonged
to the EH II ship. For if the vessel were anchored in approximately
the position of the present wreck site and were caught by a strong
westerly wind, which is the only one that seriously agitates the
sea in the little bay of Skindos, and if it then broke up on the
rocky shore and sank, its anchors would have been in just about
the same positions as our two: that is, approximately 40 metres
west of the bottom site and with the holes for the anchor ropes
orientated in its direction.
3. The number, size and especially
the weight of the anchors suggest that they belonged to a relatively
small vessel of perhaps 5 to 10 tons and 12 to 15 m in length.
This supersedes our earlier estimate of the vessel's size, which
was based on the relatively large cargo it seemed to have been
This estimate, of course, hangs on
the fact that only two rather small anchors have so far been found.
The excavation must first be completed and the surrounding area
thoroughly explored before we can say for sure whether or not
the ship carried more than two anchors and if so, whether they
were larger than these two. Much larger Bronze Age anchors have
been found in the eastern Mediterranean, and the ships there usually
carried a number of anchors, but even if we do not find any more
anchors at Dokos, this does not necessarily mean that our vessel
was a small one, because relatively nothing is in fact known about
EH ship types, sailing techniques or methods of anchoring. They
were probably long light craft propelled by oars, like those depicted
on the EH II "frying pans from Syros, the one on the
EH sherd from Orchomenos or the clay model from Palaikastro. Such
vessels could easily have been hauled up onto a beach or anchored
in some sheltered cove, with lines made fast to rocks ashore.
Also EH ships may not have possessed the necessary superstructures
and gear for heaving up the large heavy anchors that the Late
Bronze Age ships of the eastern Mediterranean carried.
The cataloguing, drawing and photographing
of the finds, as well as the classification of their features
and the tasks and problems connected with their conservation are
processed on our Apple Macintosh computer. The computer prints
out inventory cards containing all the above information, including
statistical data giving, for example, the frequency of each pottery
type, or the shapes of the querns and the total number of pots
in the Dokos cargo or cargos.
At the same time the treatment and
conservation of the finds by a team of conservationists continues
in the Spetsai Museum laboratory that the HIMA has organized and
equipped for this purpose.
On the basis of the results obtained
so far it seems that the great mass of Early Helladic II pottery
recovered from the underwater site at Myti Kommeni on Dokos was
part of the cargo of one or more EH ships that foundered, capsized
or jettisoned their load in this bay. The bay formed a natural
harbour, which would no doubt have always been the scene of much
activity and movement due to the settlement, possibly a trading
station, on the Myti Kommeni promontory during the Early Helladic
period (3rd millennium BC).
The large quantity of millstones
found on the main underwater site might well be part of the ship's
cargo and/or ballast.
Many of the small finds such as the
animal teeth, obsidian, spindle-whorl fragments and small pieces
of mudbrick that have been found on the sea bottom might well
have washed down from the EH settlement site on the shore and
should therefore be regarded as stray finds.
The picture of the underwater site
at Dokos is further clouded by the presence (although very limited)
among the EH pottery of plain and decorated Mycenaean sherds representing
the three main phases of the Mycenaean period: Late Helladic I,
II and III.
This Mycenaean material clearly came
from the large Mycenaean settlement on the headland, parts of
which have now been uncovered by the land excavation.
The projected 1992 campaign at Dokos, which will include a full-scale geological and geomorphological survey of the area, is expected to shed further light on the nature of the whole site.