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August 2006 & July-August 2007Interactive Dig Black Sea: Shipwreck Research Project
Breathtaking view from the summit of the Sudak Fortress. Mt. Sokol rises to the right with Novy Svet beyond.
The view from the summit of the Sudak Fortress reveals throngs of tourists who come every summer to bask in the sun and frolick in the cool waters of the Black Sea.
Going over the dive plan one more time before descending for the first prilimary orientation dive. Everyone is anxious to get into the routine.

Photos courtesy BSSRP. Click on images for larger versions where available.
by Kim Koper and Megan Goetsch

From the Field: August 4, 2006

In the past three days, we have witnessed both medieval battles and modern arm-wrestling competitions (with Vegas-style show girls and all) held in the heart of the same early medieval Genoese fortress. We've also hiked past the Devil's Thumb, which has an intriguing legend behind its name. Once upon a time, two young girls decided to go dancing on one of the many mountains that cut so dramatically into the sea. The Devil grew angry at the sounds of their merry making and in his rage stuck up his thumb straight from hell through the crust of the earth. He tried his best to crush them, but God stepped in and nailed his nemesis's thumb to the country side, where it still rises into the sky to this day, a towering pillar of rock. At Sudak, where ancient coral reefs loom over rocky beaches and the deep blue sea, is a place of gods and monsters and mountains that really resemble the giant animals they are named after. Here, in such a surreal landscape, stories of this kind begin to seem believable.

We took our first step into the storybook world on our first day in Crimea, when we had the great pleasure of visiting the Fortress of Sudak. After meeting with the directors of the terrestrial excavation going on there, a sister project to our own work, we were able to join in the festivities of the local medieval fair. Blaring trumpets announced the start of a mock battle, the highlight of the day. It was a tale of a corrupt priest, unjust executions, a beautiful maiden, and the noble knight that saved her. After a short introduction, the gunfire, fire, and outright sword fighting began. Soon an all out battle began: highlanders battled the Mongolians of Genghis Khan's Golden Horde, Knights Templar faced off with Amazons, while archers fed the fires on the castle walls with flaming arrows. Truly this was a unique beginning to our adventures here in the Ukraine.

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The battle rages on so fiercely that it is easy to forget that this battle is just a renactment and many of the warriors fight as if it were the real thing. Afterwards, our ears continued to ring from the deafening booming of small cannon fire. What a show! I've never seen anything like this before.

The following day we all geared up for our orientation dive to the excavation site. As we waited for oil for our hookah compressor, we geared up and toured the perimeter where masses of pottery litter the sea floor. Bright yellow fish now flit past masses of amphorae, some of which lie on the sea bed still intact. Unsuspecting tourists swim up above, but as we look upon the remains before us, we cannot help but think of what had happened here. Since antiquity, local and foreign powers had struggled for dominance in the Black Sea region; whoever controlled this meeting point of East and West, controlled the trade routes--and the vast wealth that accompanied them. In the thirteenth century, Pisa and Genoa had emerged as the two major powers in the area, and an account in an annalistic history of Genoa tells us of the 1277 sea battle between Genose and Pisan galleys that took place in view of the Sudak harbor. The townspeople watched as the Pisan crew tried to defend themselves, but their ship caught flame and, still burning, went down. Despite the tragic story, we cannot contain our excitement. Soon we will be excavating alongside our Ukrainian colleagues: surely stunning discoveries await us all under the sea floor.

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