Secrets of the Bosporan Atlantis: 10 Years of Discoveries

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The flooded ancient city of Akra, once part of the mighty Bosporan Kingdom, was discovered back in the 1980s in the southern part of the Kerch Strait, which the ancient Greeks called the Cimmerian Bosporus. Today, the ancient ruins lie at the bottom of the Black Sea, and on the deserted shore, where two thousand years ago the life of the Hellenic polis was in full swing, there is only a tiny village of Naberezhnoye. Scientists have yet to figure out the mysteries of the Crimean Atlantis.

Underwater archaeologists have been working in the waters of the Kerch Strait since 2011; from 2016 to 2019 they were supported by the experts and volunteers from the Russian Geographical Society as part of the expedition "Akra – the ancient city of the Bosporus". The uniqueness of the location of the city, which has been hidden for centuries by a five-meter water column and has not been touched by modern mass development of the coast, has allowed to preserve objects dating back to the 5th century BC in good condition. Scientists have managed to establish the approximate area of Akra and its architectural appearance – a chain of defensive walls, towers, and residential buildings. A large number of remains of amphorae and tableware, jewelry and coins of the Bosporan Kingdom were lifted from the bottom.


View of Akra from the west. Dark spots are the remains of the ancient city. Photo provided by the participants of the RGS expedition
View of Akra from the west. Dark spots are the remains of the ancient city. Photo provided by the participants of the RGS expedition

Researchers have concluded that the city was founded by immigrants from the neighboring Panticapaeum, the capital of the Bosporus, on a low cape that jutted into the sea in the 6th-5th centuries BC. Around the perimeter, the polis was surrounded by a wall with various kinds of ledges and staircases. The city was built as a major land and sea trading hub; much attention was paid to defense. However, by the 3rd century BC, due to the rising water (the coast was gradually sinking), residents were forced to leave their homes and gradually the city was deserted.

The defense system of the city is also well preserved: scientists were able to find a part of the wall, about 172 meters long, and the base of a staircase that once climbed the wall. Dozens of Panticapaeum coins, wooden items, and household items were also discovered by archaeologists: such artifacts rot on the surface of the earth, but in the aquatic marine environment, under a layer of clay and sand, they do not deteriorate and can lie for thousands of years.

A large-scale collection of finds raised from the bottom of the strait was transferred to the State Museum of the Black Sea Center for Underwater Research, and after its closure, to the Sudak Museum.

In 10 years of scientific work, Akra has become a testing ground for the latest technology: the equipment of the expedition improved, its number grew. Thanks to this, archaeologists were able to speed up the excavations. With the help of a profilometer – a device that measures bottom sediments – it was possible to examine the bottom remotely. Specialists at Southern Federal University together with scientists investigated the density of cultural layers inside the city and behind the city’s defensive wall.

A marine magnetometer, a sophisticated instrument for geophysical work and search operations in a water area, helped researchers in the search for large metal finds. This way, ship anchors with lead stocks were found.

Digital processing is also in the arsenal of researchers: they digitize all the found ruins, take thousands of photos, work on creating a 3D model of the underwater city. Every year, archaeologists map the buildings discovered at the bottom of the sea. The three-dimensional map of the flooded settlement of Akra will allow, as scientists hope, to conduct excursions around the ancient city without diving into the sea.

Since 2011, about 300 archaeologists from various institutes of our country have visited the underwater archaeological excavations in Akra. Archaeologists who have diving skills, as well as volunteers can take part in the expedition. They will be able to join the research of the ancient city thanks to the Russian Geographical Society's archaeological volunteering support program. The scientists plan to increase the excavation area in the western part of the monument in the coastal zone, where they have already managed to find part of the street of the Roman period; as well as to pump water from a room that burned down in a fire in the 2nd century AD, and, if they are lucky, find things buried under the ruins.

Traded, Burned, Sank: What Archaeologists Learned about the Ancient City of Akra

In Crimea, a new historical discovery is one step away, you just need to know where to look, archaeologists say. Since the beginning of July, the archaeological and geographical expedition "Akra – the ancient city of the Bosporus" has been held here. Scientists and volunteer scuba divers of the Russian Geographical Society are exploring the underwater part of the settlement at the bottom of the Black Sea using special equipment. Why did the port city sink? What surprises did its ruins bring to historians? And what did the artifacts from the bottom tell us? Details are in our article.


Image is the courtesy of the Nauka TV channel
Image is the courtesy of the Nauka TV channel

Sensational Results of the Survey of Akra: Preservation Level of the Ancient City Exceeds All Expectations

Unique antique vessels, a wooden comb, coins of the Bosporan Kingdom ... But most importantly, scientists have learned new information about the construction of the ancient city of Akra, which sank in the 4th century AD. The 2019 field season of the archaeological and geographical expedition "Akra – the ancient city of the Bosporus" has ended in Crimea. According to scientists, it has become one of the most productive since the beginning of underwater excavations. Read more in our article.