Ancient 'Acropolis of the sea' opens to divers

Hidden and protected for millennia, an ancient shipwreck in Greece is opening to the public for the first time.

Access to underwater sites is typically restricted in Greece to preserve their integrity. But authorities can now allow recreational diving at the shipwreck, thanks to modern-day artificial intelligence.

(SOUNDBITE) (Greek) DIMITRIS KOURKOUMELIS, UNDERWATER ARCHAEOLOGIST AT GREECE'S EPHORATE OF UNDERWATER ANTIQUITIES, SAYING:

"It's the first time, and not just in Greece, but on a pan-European level, that such a site, such a shipwreck so large with so many objects, is opening to the public and divers."

It’s called the "Acropolis of sea wrecks."

The site is located off a tiny outcrop off the Aegean island of Alonnisos. A wooden vessel sank here in the late 5th century B.C., taking with it thousands of amphorae – storage jars used for commerce across the ancient Mediterranean.

It’s an archeological wonder and safeguarding it is a priority for local authorities.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) GEORGE PAPALAMBROU, NOUS PROJECT CO-DESIGNER, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR AT THE NATIONAL TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF ATHENS, SAYING:

"We have installed in specific locations the cameras, in order to be able to recognize if anybody or anything, like a robotic-operated vehicle, has entered this protected area. What runs behind this livestream is a special algorithm with artificial intelligence that is able to recognize, in real time, various classes of objects."

Using image recognition software, the underwater cameras can also alert administrators instantly if the wreck is in danger of being disturbed.

The system, called NOUS (Undersea Vision Surveillance System) works with an algorithm that can recognize the difference between a fish, a robotic vehicle or a diver, even at night.

Dimitris Kourkoumelis, an underwater archaeologist, says this technology could make more archeological sites accessible to the public.

(SOUNDBITE) (Greek) DIMITRIS KOURKOUMELIS, UNDERWATER ARCHAEOLOGIST AT GREECE'S EPHORATE OF UNDERWATER ANTIQUITIES, SAYING:

"This (project) makes us feel secure about the protection of the antiquities. It was something that was missing. Actually, it will help us in making the next step that is necessary (for visitors to come to the wreck)."

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