Ancient Submerged Port Towns and Cities


The ocean played a great role in the lives of the coastal people. The exploration of marine resources along the world coast dates back to the times of prehistoric man. Even the Neolithic people used the sea for various purposes. During the last 4000 years due to tectonic and eustatic changes in the sea level a number of human settlement sites have submerged either fully or partially. During the last 40 years serious attempts are being made in the world around to explore sunken ships and submerged ports.

The examples from the Israel coast of the Mediterranean are ranging from Palaeolithic Period to Iron Age have gone into the sea or lying near to the shore. Similarly, seventy archaeological sites have been noticed on the coasts of the Pelopennese and south-west Turkey. The age of these sites vary from 2000 B.C. to modern period.

The Port Royal of Jamaica, one of the cosmopolitan cities in the West Indies is the latest example. The height of prosperity of Port Royal came to an end at 11.40 A.M. on 7th June, 1692. The severe earthquake shook Port Royal causing two thirds of the city to slide in the ocean within 2 minutes. The Institute of Nautical Archaeology was invited to continue excavations in terms of archaeology in the city in 1981. The excavation of the entire sunken town site will require decades of work.


It is only after 1970, the marine archaeological researches carried out in Indian Ocean countries like China, Indonesia, India, Thailand and Australia. This work has brought to light on ancient trade system, revealed cultural links and opened knowledge on ship building and navigation.

Long before Columbus set sail for America and the Phoenicians set sail for the Mediterranean the ancient Indians were aware of the waves, tides and stars, wise in trade and commerce and knew the value of rubies and diamond.

India with its 5000 years history of maritime activity and 6000 km coast has played a major role in commerce and cultural interaction between the East and West. Thousands of ships have crossed the Indian Ocean and many were lost in nautical calamities, piracy and warfare.

In India evidences of ship building, port and warehouses installations are datable to Harappan culture. The important Harappan and late Harappan ports were Lothal, Lakhabawal, Kindarkhera, Kuntasi, Megham, Prabhasa, Todio, Amra. The excavations of these sites have yielded antiquities of Bahrain island, Persian gulf, Egypt and Mesopotmia cities.

The same maritime traditions continued even during the life time of Buddha, the Mauryas, the Gupta and in later period. During historical period India had trade and cultural contacts with Egypt, Rome, Greeks, Arabs, China and all most all Southeast Asian countries.

Both the coasts of India have been studded with a string of ports. The ports on the west coast were Barygaya, Suppara, Calliena, Semylla, Mandagore, Palaepatme, Malizigara, Aurranobbas, Byzantine, Naura, Tyndis, Muziris and Nelcynda and the ports on the east coast were Tamralipti, Charitrapur, Paluru, Dantapur, Kalingapatnam, Pithunda, Sopatma, Ghantasala, Poduca, Puhar, Korkai and Camara.

In India, Marine Archaeological explorations are undertaken at Dwarka, Bet Dwarka, Somnath, Lakshadweep, Vijaydurg on the west coast and Tranquebar and Poompuhar on the east coast of India. The findings of Dwarka, Bet Dwarka and Somnath are datable to 1500 B.C. and the antiquities of Poompuhar date to the submerged port town to 3rd century B.C.

Inshore explorations have been carried out at Malwan, Sopara, Elephanta island, Chaul, Udyavara, Honnavar, Gopakapatna on the west coast and Manikpatna, Kalingapatna, surrounding region of Poompuhar and Tranquebar on the east coast of India.


Shipwrecks are the store house of knowledge for archaeologists but wealth for treasure hunters. In number ships of various countries were lost in due to natural calamities, human error and warfare. Some shipwrecks have been excavated and others await the scientific spade of the marine archaeologists. Information on a few shipwrecks of the world and India is briefly mentioned.Mary Rose was built in Portsmouth between 1509 and 1511 and served in Henry VIII's Navy for 34 years before sinking in the ..olent on 19th July 1545. In 1982, after many years of painstaking search and investigation the Mary Rose was recovered from the seabed with unprecedented interest and support from the public.

In 1912 the luxury liner Titanic struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage and sank with 1500 passengers to the Atlantic seabed in 12,500 ft. below. In 1986, Alvin and Jason the undersea craft (submersibles), under the leadership of Robert Ballard, toured around the wreckage and documented the remains. Similarly, Wasa, the Sweden ship which sank in 1628 was retrieved in 1958.The Ulu Burun shipwreck is datable to 14th century BC. The excavation yielded copper, tin and glass ingots, unworked ivory, gold and silver jewellery, metal and stone artifacts etc. The hull construction is similar to that of later period Greco-Roman ship. On the basis of comparison with wreck objects and land site antiquities it is suggested that the ship was sailing from east to west.

In India a 18th century shipwreck is located at 19 m water depth off Poompuhar. Shipwrecks of same period were also discovered in Goa waters. Shipwrecks were also located in Lakshadweep waters.Thank you for visiting website page of Kamlesh Vora born at Bhuj-Kachchh (Gujarat) on 11th January, 1952. Shri. Vora, passed M.Sc. in Geology in 1974 and M.Tech (Civil) from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in 1976. He joined the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa on December 31, 1976 December. Straight away he was involved in a major project of the institute and perhaps even for the country i.e. Bombay High Oil Field Development programe, led by Late Dr. H.N. Siddiquie at the time when developing indigenous technology and saving precious foreign exchange was major thrust. Shri. Vora was one of the key member in a team to select pipeline routes from Bombay High to Bombay and Bassein to Gujarat. Soon he was also deputed to Norway under NORAD Programme for training in offshore engineering projects. Things were never static at N.I.O during early eighties - period of major development for NIO. After the historic discovery of Polymetalic nodules on board RV Gaveshani in 1980 under the leadership of Dr. S.Z. Qasim, the Department of Ocean Development was formed and the country launched massive programme for exploration of Polymetallic nodules. Shri. Vora was the first Chief Scientist of this expanded project which ultimately helped the country to obtain the mining license under the Law of the Sea convention. It was also the first time perhaps in the world that scientific cruises of 45 days without any port call, were initiated at that time.

Decade beginning from commissioning of R.V. Gaveshani in 1976 also heralded new era in the building up of Oceanographic data base on the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Shri Vora was an active member of the team that collected underway accoustic data specially echo-sounding, side-scan sonar and sub-bottom profiling at about 20 km spacing covering entire western shelf of India. The data so generated has been the base for inferring palaeo-sealevel and other oceanographic conditions using geomorphic features.

Early eighties, 1981 to say precisely, saw yet another field, Marine archaeology, traded by Shri. Vora when he initiated Poompuhar Project in Tamil nadu Coast to search for lost city which was flourishing in the beginning of the Christian Era. He also then carried out marine archaeological explorations at Dwarka. Subsequently in 1991 he was chosen to look after Marine Archaeology Centre of the institute as a Scientist-in-Charge.

Shri. Vora has been also deputed to Caribbean Countries as a member of Project CORE, to Mauritius under a bilateral assistance programme and to Australia to attend first meeting of IGCP (International Geological Correlation Programme) Project 396 "Continental Shelves in the Quaternary: Interpretation, Correlation and Application.