Swiss Journal of Geosciences

, Volume 111, Issue 3, pp 573–588 | Cite as

Flooding a landscape: impact of Holocene transgression on coastal sedimentology and underwater archaeology in Kiladha Bay (Greece)

  • Morgane SurdezEmail author
  • Julien Beck
  • Dimitris Sakellariou
  • Hendrik Vogel
  • Patrizia Birchler Emery
  • Despina Koutsoumba
  • Flavio S. Anselmetti


Franchthi Cave, bordering Kiladha Bay, in Greece, is a key archaeological site, due to its long occupation time, from ~ 40,000 to ~ 5000 year BP. To date, no clear evidence of Neolithic human dwellings in the cave was found, supporting the assumption that Neolithic people may have built a village where there is now Kiladha Bay. During the Neolithic period/Early Holocene, wide areas of the bay were indeed emerged above sea level. Bathymetric and seismic data identified a terrace incised by a valley in ~ 1 to 2 m sediment depth. Eight sediment cores, up to 6.3-m-long, were retrieved and analysed using petrophysical, sedimentological, geochemical, and chronostratigraphic methods. The longest core extends into the exposure surface, consisting of a layer of carbonate rubble in a finer matrix, representing weathering processes. Dated organic remains place this unit at ~ 8500 cal year BP. It is overlain by stiff silty mud representing an estuarine environment. This mud is capped by reduced sediments with roots marking an exposure surface. A shell-layer, dated to ~ 6300 cal year BP, overlies this terrestrial sequence, reflecting the marine transgression. This layer occurs at 10.8 mbsl, 7.7 m deeper than the global sea level at that time, suggesting tectonic subsidence in the area. It is overlain by finer-grained marine carbonate-rich sediments. The top of the core shows traces of eutrophication, pebbles and marine shells, all likely a result of modern anthropogenic processes. These results are interpreted in the context of human occupation: the exposed surface contains pottery sherds, one dating to the Early to Middle Neolithic period, indicating that Neolithic people were present in this dynamic landscape interacting with a migrating coastline. Even if the artefacts are isolated, future investigations of the submerged landscape off Franchthi Cave might lead to the discovery of a Neolithic village, which eventually became buried under marine sediments.


Shallow marine sediments Submerged prehistoric landscapes Franchthi Cave Argolic Gulf Tectonic subsidence 



We would like to thank all the people who helped us for the coring in Greece, as well as K. D. Vitelli for her identification of Neolithic pottery, Erika Gobet for identifying some of the biological remains, and Eike Neubert for his expertise in molluscs. We are grateful to Julijana Krbanjevic for the CNS analysis, Nicole Schwendener for the CT-scanning and Sönke Szidat for the AMS 14C-dating. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for the constructive improvements.


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Copyright information

© Swiss Geological Society 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Geological Sciences and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change ResearchUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Département des Sciences de l’AntiquitéUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  3. 3.Institute of OceanographyHellenic Centre for Marine ResearchAnavyssosGreece
  4. 4.Ephorate of Underwater AntiquitiesHellenic Ministry of Culture and SportsAthensGreece

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