NEWS

Re-enactment of ancient voyage bears Olympic gifts

PIRAEUS – Some 2,300 years ago, a small wooden cargo boat laden with 400 large jugs of Greek wine, almonds and bronze coins sank off the coast of Cyprus. Now, a ship just like it has returned to Greece bearing gifts to celebrate the homecoming of the Olympics to their ancient birthplace. There’s olive oil, more wine and almonds, and copper ingots that will be symbolically used to make bronze medals for the Aug. 13-29 Games. The 15-meter (49-foot) Kerynia-Liberty was towed into Athens’ main port Friday on the final stretch of a troubled, month-long journey across the eastern Mediterranean, to a welcome of blaring ferry horns, a brass band and folk dancers. «Welcome back,» said Petros Tatoulis, the deputy culture minister, standing at the peer where the replica of the ancient boat docked. «This was the journey of our forefathers… a symbol of human perseverance.» Launched in 2002, the Kerynia-Liberty was modeled on the sunken boat found nearly 40 years ago off northern Cyprus, which remains one of the best preserved shipwrecks of antiquity in the world. It’s captain, Glafcos Kariolou, is the son of a Cypriot diver who first spotted the sunken vessel and joined a team of American divers to help bring the remains to the surface. Kariolou said the 27-day trip from Cyprus – stopping at 12 Greek islands – was marred by opposing winds, snapped rudders and the insistence of expedition organizers to occasionally tow the boat so that a pressing schedule could be kept. «We are very tired and a little bit disappointed with the way the weather went,» Kariolou told The Associated Press. «The trip was not so favorable… We should be left to follow the winds as the ancients did.» He added, however, that the nine-member crew had gathered valuable clues on how the steering oars might have been placed and cargo stacked in ancient times. The Kerynia-Liberty is the second seaworthy replica modeled on the ancient boat and is named after the port of Kyrenia, near the site of the discovery. The port and remains of the original boat are in the Turkish-occupied north of the island. Two other major re-creation projects of ancient Greek boats have also been timed for the Olympics. The renovated replica of a 2,500-year-old Greek warship – the three-tiered trireme – was unveiled near Athens last month and will be part of the Olympic torch relay shortly before the start of the Games. And a copy of a 3,500-year-old Bronze Age ship, based on evidence gleaned from vases and other ancient drawings and texts, has been completed on the island of Crete and is due to sail to Athens in June.