Research on the Shipwreck “Mentor” Which Carried Elgin Marbles

Research on the Shipwreck “Mentor” Which Carried Elgin Marbles

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    According to an article in the Greek newspaper “Eleftherotypia”, research was conducted by the Ephorate of Marine Antiquities from July 6-15 on the wreck of the ship “Mentor” which had once carried some of the Elgin marbles. The research was financed by the Australian Foundation “Kytherian Research Group.”
    The ship, originally chartered by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin and British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799–1803, was a brig, built in 1780, that set sail from Piraeus on September 16th, 1802. However, near Cape Tainaro, strong winds made the voyage difficult and in Avlemonas, on the island of Kythyra, the ship ran upon the rocks and sank. Elgin, at his own expense, made great efforts to salvage the stolen treasures from the sunken ship. This operation lasted more than two years and, in the end, bankrupted Elgin. It was for this reason that he eventually sold the marbles to the British Museum for a very low price.
    The new research team, with archaeologist Demetris Kourkoumelis in charge, has brought to light some important findings from the historical wreck. The team focused mainly on the stern of the ship, where they found objects which had belonged to the ship’s staff made of clay, glass, porcelain.  The team also discovered decoration pieces, clothes, coins, guns, arms and instruments of navigation, including a compass.
    Mr. Kourkoumelis notes that the wreck is significant as it is related to dark times and to an unpleasant historical moment for Greece and, at the same time, constitutes a source of information regarding the Eastern Mediterranean commercial ships of that time.