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Cavtat Diving Sites

With its peninsulas stretching into the sea Cavtat has long been a convenient settlement site, where life can be traced from the Bronze and Iron Ages till the present day. The first antique records of the name Epidaurum, nowadays Cavtat, go back to the year 47 B.C. In the political upheavals between Caesar and Pompey the city which belonged to the Romans took Caesar’s side.

This later proved to be a useful decision because, after Caesar’s victory, Epidaurus was granted the highest rank: that of a colony. In the area of Cavtat, including both peninsulas and bays, numerous remains of the former Illyrian and Roman city have been found.

However, the most interesting for our topic are the submarine archaeological finds. When the Romans gained control over antique Epidaurum it became one of the major cities in the region. The reason was trade. As a safe harbour conveniently connected with the hinterlands Epidaurum developed into a trade centre. At that time trade was predominantly sea oriented. The reasons can be found in cheaper sea transport and poor land communications, which developed only at the time of the Roman Empire. Some research showed that it was cheaper to transport merchandise by boat from one end of the Mediterranean to the other than by land for only 75 miles. Apart from several cases of coastal findings and pieces of architecture the Cavtat maritime zone comprises the remains of three antique shipwrecks with their cargoes and one more recent shipwreck from the time of Napoleon.

Furthermore, the entire zone in front of the harbour was used as anchorage, so that separate artefacts were also found in the wider area. Due to such a concentration of submarine findings the archaeological zone in front of Cavtat is protected by a Ministry of Culture decree, so that diving activities are possible only with the permission of the Ministry of Culture. For the time being only the Epidaurum Diving Centre from Cavtat owned by Boris Obradović has been granted such permission. He was the one who gave reports on the majority of the sites in the Cavtat submarine area, after which archaeological investigations were carried out, and both the site and entire zone were protected in physical as well as in legal sense.

The AMPHORA SITE is situated in the submarine zone of the Big Shallows (pličina Velika), north-west of the entrance to the Bay of Cavtat, at a depth of 22 – 28 metres. This is the largest and best preserved antique shipwreck with a cargo of amphora on the Eastern Adriatic coast. More than 600 undamaged amphoras from North Africa and the Aegean region have been documented on the surface layer, whereas the three site layers are assumed to contain more than 1800 pieces. According to the amphora type the locality dates back to the 4th century A.D. After conservational archaeological research the entire site was covered by a protective mesh in the shape of a cage.

The PYTHOS SITE is situated in the vicinity of the Islet of Supetar, at a depth of 25 metres, where eight huge pitchers called pythos or dollyas can be seen, of which each has a capacity of approx. 1200 litres. The archaeologists believe that they sank in a shipwreck which took place in the 1st century A.D. The site is unique on the eastern Adriatic coast and among the rare ones on the Mediterranean.

The LOOSE AMPHORA SITE is situated westward from the entrance to Cavtat Harbour at a depth of 25 – 27 metres. This is the oldest shipwreck in the subject area, which dates back to the 1st century B.C. according to the remains of the amphora type Lamboglia 2. A small number of undamaged amphoras has been taken out of the sea, while umerous broken pieces still lie on the sea bottom in a petrified pile.

A MORE RECENT SHIPWRECK is situated westwards from the entrance to the bay of Cavtat, at a depth of 27 – 31 metres. On the sea bed one can see the remains of 6 iron cannons, 2 anchors, a number of cannon-balls, rifles and other objects from a smaller war ship from the time of Napoleon. Already from this brief description of the submarine archaeological sites in the waters in front of Cavtat one can notice the richness of the Cavtat submarine cultural heritage. Apart from its proper conservation, the Ministry of Culture aims to leave as many archaeological remains and localities as possible under the sea in the form of in situ museums. In this way the Croatian tourist offer is enriched, i.e. a high quality combination of tourism and cultural heritage is achieved. Moreover, can one imagine a more beautiful visit to a museum than the one in the silence of the blue depths?

Author: Domagoj Perkić

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