Pavlopetri: The Oldest Sunken City

In Greece, between the Aegean Sea and the Ionian Sea, in Vatikan Bay, there is a city under the sea: Pavlopetri. Many people probably have heard of Atlantis, the city under the ocean with humanoid creatures. However, Pavlopetri, this real-life Atlantis, may have been the one to start the myths in the first place.

pavlopetri from above
Anticae Viae

Pavlopetri is currently the oldest sunken city as it dates back to at least 5000 BC. However, the discovery and exploration of the site were in recent times. In 1904, Fokion Negris, a Greek geologist, reported that there was a city deep in the sea of Laconia.

pavlopetri ruins

A little more than 50 years later, the British oceanographer Dr. Nicholas Flemming visited the site Negris claimed to have seen. Flemming realized that Negris did in fact tell the truth and there was a city buried deep under the sea. A year later, more news developed.

pavlopetri ruins

Flemming went to the site with a group of archeologists this time and found out more about the city. He and the archeologists mapped the city and determined its age. They saw that this was a residential town with many buildings and streets. Pavlopetri was surely a lively and busy place of living a long time ago.

pavlopetri ruins up close

They also began to speculate about what really caused the city’s sinkage. The most probable guess was that an earthquake of a huge magnitude toppled the city and caused water to rise up. The result was the submerging and burial of Pavlopetri.

pavlopetri from the bird's eye view

The exploration continued for many years. Especially, the excavations during a four-year stint between 2009 and 2013 mapped out the city even better. The archeologists found more buildings and identified various rooms and stumbled upon water canals and pipes as well.

diver swimming over the ruins

What made Pavlopetri mainstream was actually a documentary on BBC in 2011. Through their resources, BBC used special techniques to make 3-D model versions of the lost artifacts to better understand the architecture and the foundation of the city.

diver swimming in the ruins

Historians also state that Pavlopetri was probably a big port with ships from all over the world coming to trade and exchange goods. While the past of Pavlopetri is impressive, its present is concerning. Tourists and a rapidly industrializing landscape threaten the integrity of the city more and more every day.

underwater photo of the sunken city
Sea Mayor Russia