The choice of the archipelago of Fourni/Korseai as the field for conducting an underwater archaeological survey was never an obvious one. The national policy on conducting underwater surveys tends to focus mainly on maritime regions associated with influential terrestrial archaeological sites or areas that historically had a special geopolitical importance and played a key role in ancient and medieval navigation. Fourni, a place seemingly isolated, did not meet any of the above features. The ground stays largely silent, providing little archaeological remains and few inscriptions that survived wind erosion. As with most small islands of the Aegean, there has never been intensive archaeological field investigation and the existing evidence from land surveys do not seem to differentiate significantly Fourni from any other cluster of small islands or larger islands of the eastern Aegean.
The first theoretical searches for undertaking a new survey in the Aegean region began between the research directors Dr. George Koutsouflakis and Peter Campbell, in year 2013. With already having years of prior experience in underwater reconnaissance surveys in the Aegean, mainly in areas that historically played an important role in maritime communication and that were directly linked with powerful cities and economic centers during ancient times, it was decided to change the current model of field research choice and to look for a regional insular place for which there is no extensive ergography or previous research experience. A place that had never been researched before, where a systematic underwater archaeological investigation could take place from the beginning, away from former scientific considerations that are often reproduced in the bibliography and create a consolidated historical perception. A place that is a geographical unit and an entity; where it would be easier to examine over time the interconnectivity of its geographically scattered surroundings.
The reasons of selection, apart from a preliminary level of historical understanding of the marine environment, were multiple and associated with some criteria not directly archaeological. The multifarious geographical relief of about twenty islands, islets and rock islands that make up the archipelago of Fourni, with the notably rich horizontal and vertical division was one of characteristics of the area that immediately caught our interest.
A second reason was the geographical location of Fourni in a crossing of basic navigation routes in the North – South axis, along the Asia Minor coast and the East – West axis, from mainland Greece, through the Cyclades to Ikaria, Samos and central Asia Minor. These routes are incorporated in and form an integral part of local importance broader networks.
Finally, crucial in our final decision was the presence of authorities and of a local population who were ready to support morally and logistically this research over a long time.
The research proposal was submitted to the Ministry of Culture in November 2014 and a proposal of research cooperation between the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and R.P.M. Foundation Nautical Foundation was formulated. As for the purpose of the investigation: identification, mapping and documentation of marine archaeological remains in the Archipelago sea, which are associated with ancient, medieval and modern shipping and freight handling. The research proposal was fully accepted by the Central Archaeological Council and subsequently licensed by the Minister of Culture and Sport.
The first two research seasons (September 2015, December 2016), whilst making use of every kind of information available, led to an unprecedented recording and documentation of forty-five shipwrecks. These preliminary investigations were only the beginning of a four-year research program which will be completed in 2018 with the aim of primary mapping of all shipwrecks and pottery depositions of the nearly twenty islands of the cluster.
After the completion of this process will we be able to gain a full understanding of the use of this sea area and to highlight the ancient and medieval shipwrecks that have an important historical significance and can qualify for excavation in the future.