On Friday I went to a talk by Dr. Oktay Dumankaya, an archaeologist concentrating on ancient harbours, a branch of the study that doesn't get much attention. Underwater archaeology tends to publicise sensational finds of wrecks and their contents without telling us where these ships moored and how they were watered and provisioned. Dr Dumankaysa's research focuses mostly on breakwaters, the remains of which tell us how land and sea levels have changed over the centuries, which harbours had chained entrances and whether the harbours were busy in Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine or all four periods. It is accepted that an ancient 'wave breaker' as breakwaters are called in Turkish, was at least 2 meters high as they acted as a continuation of the city walls to protect harbours from intruders; remains of the Gümüşlük breakwater are still visible (above). Imagine a 2 meter wall rising from the sea between the plant and the island in the picture below and as dusk fell a chain would be raised at the harbour entrance to the right, making the port of Gümüşlük (Myndos) completely secure.
The breakwater on Çavuş Island, opposite Gümüşlük, is now 12 meters below sea level which suggests a sea level change of 14 meters over the centuries. Historical sources tell us that there were 500 earthquakes between 500BC and 500AD which explains why some harbours have sunk and some haven't. Many ancient breakwaters have been lost for mundane reasons. Skippers using a sustantial stone to tie up their yachts may have not realised that they were gradually tugging a 2000 year old relic into the sea. Dr Dumankaya has witnessed ancient submerged quaysides being dug up by hotel staff to save their customers toes or to embellish a garden wall and until all these harbours are given protected status, there is nothing to stop this happening.