The Ancient Kyrenia Ship
With the cargo in her hull and covered with silt, lying in the depths of the sea with her body gradually dissolving through the centuries, the small ship waited off the coast of Kyrenia. She was small but well built; she had sailed all over the Mediterranean Sea until she met her fate on her last voyage.
She sailed to the islands of the Eastern Aegean Sea and picked up olive oil from Samos, wine from Rhodes, millstones, almonds and iron. Then, she set out for Kyrenia, Cyprus, with a captain and three sailors. For unknown reasons, the ship sank in the year 300 B.C. Andreas Kariolou, a diver from Kyrenia exploring the seabed, was the first to spot the ship in 1965.
With permission from the government of Cyprus, a team of archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania Museum under Professor Michael Katzev raised, preserved and restored the ancient wreck. The underwater operation was conducted with scientific precision. It took eight years (1967-1974) for the restoration to be completed.
With a length of 14.75 metres and a width of 3.4 metres, she could carry a cargo up to 30 tons. Her last cargo consisted of 404 amphorae (dating to the end of the fourth century B.C), 29 millstones, almonds and iron. A few personal belongings of the crew were also discovered. Some pieces of lead, some tools, some crockery and other items found provide useful information about life on an ancient vessel. The remnants of food – one head of garlic, 18 olive pips, 14760 fig seeds, about 10 000 almonds whose shells were preserved – paint a vivid picture of the sailors’ everyday diet.
After her preservation and restoration, the ship was kept in a special gallery at the Kyrenia Castle, where it was studied by scholars and admired by both foreign and local visitors. Unfortunately, the Turkish invasion put a stop to the study of the ancient vessel.
On 1 November 1982, the Hellenic Institute for the Preservation of Nautical Tradition (H.I.P.N.T.) announced the beginning of a project to replicate in the same dimensions the ancient Kyrenia ship. The replication was undertaken by H.I.P.N.T. in collaboration with the Institute of Archaeology of Texas A&M University. The studies carried out before 1974 gave the necessary data toward the replication of the ship. Contemporary ship builders at Manolis Psaros shipyard at Perama, Greece, followed the techniques of the ancient Greeks.
The Kyrenia II was the result of a unique experiment in nautical archaeology. Its main purpose was to attempt to construct the replica by employing the same method as the ancient Greeks had done in building the original, using the “shell first” method (first the keel and planning and then the frames). The materials used in the replica were, as far as possible, comparable to those of the ancient ship.
The Kyrenia II was finished by June 1985. On 22 June 1985, the new vessel was launched on a long trial sail before attempting to travel to the islands of the Eastern Aegean Sea (Samos, Kos, Nisyros, Rhodes) and Cyprus. Before returning to Cyprus, however, the ship represented Greece in New York during the celebrations of 4-6 July 1986 to honour the centenary of the Statue of Liberty and the anniversary of American Independence. The small vessel received an enthusiastic welcome by the Americans, especially Greek Americans, who saw in her a symbol of Greek harmony and beauty.
Ten persons were trained for the homecoming journey to Cyprus, and Glafkos Kariolou was also invited to join the crew in honour of his father, Andreas Kariolou, the diver who had found the ancient wreck. On 6 September 1986, the vessel sailed from Piraeus and followed the same route which, according to clues and calculations by specialists, was followed by the ancient ship. She stopped at Sounion, then at Kythnos, Syros, Naxos, Kos, Nisyros and Rhodes. She carried the same kind of cargo the ancient vessel had done and whatever was symbolically offered by the islanders. By the end of October 1986, the unpretentious but sailable Kyrenia II entered the port of Pafos.
As at every other port she had sailed to, so at Pafos she received a warm and proud welcome. For the Cypriots, she was not only a scientific achievement but also a national symbol that represented the hope of returning to Kyrenia, a hope never to be lost, and the will to resist and fight till Kyrenia II, with a Cypriot crew, sails home to her own port, that of Kyrenia.
The vessel is now permanently installed in the Agia Napa Maritime History Museum, in Cyprus.
The Kyrenia II took part in the Opening Sail for the 100 years of the Hamburg harbour and in the World Exhibition in Seville. During the Asian Pacific exposition in 1989 it joined the «Silk Road» project of the Japanese state radio and television NHK.
Following the participation of Kyrenia II in the “Silk Road” project, Yasugi Hamagami, executive producer of NHK, and other admirers of Hellenic History requested permission to construct an exact replica of the Kyrenia shipwreck to be permanently exhibited in Japan. Japanese traditional craftsmen constructed the replica, named Kyrenia ll, which has since 1990 been exhibited in a museum in the town of Fukuoka, a permanent ambassador of Cyprus to Japan.
The Kyrenia – Chrysocava Cultural Foundation, in cooperation with the Kyrenia Nautical Club and the municipality of Kyrenia, decided in 2002 on the construction of a third replica of the ancient ship of Kyrenia to be named Kyrenia-Liberty.
Since the major objective of Kyrenia-Liberty was not to duplicate the first and very successful experiment of Kyrenia II, but rather to continuously experiment with ancient mariner methods and capabilities of sailing, modern fast traditional boat building methods were employed. The project was undertaken by the Avgoustis Brothers Boatyard in Lmassol, Cyprus.
On 17 April 2004, the ship left Cyprus for Piraeus and Athens, host city of the Olympic Games. Bringing a message of peace, unity and freedom, the crew delivered to the Mayor of Athens the gifts it was carrying: olive oil from Kyrenia, almonds from Nicosia and copper from Cyprus mines to be used for the Olympic Games bronze medals.