May 28, 2023

Ancient anchors, whose age can reach 1 thousand years, were found at the bottom of the Caspian Sea in the Derbent region by members of a complex historical and geographical expedition. The project, called “Marine Historical and Cultural Heritage of the Caspian Sea”, is being implemented with the support of three branches of the Russian Geographical Society and provides for the formation of a strategy for the development of tourism and diving on the coast of Dagestan.

The initiator of the long-term project, within the framework of which scientific work is being carried out in the Caspian from May 1 to May 20 this year, was Sergey Fazlullin, Deputy Chairman of the Moscow Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society for Science, Associate Professor of the Department of Museology of the Russian State University for the Humanities, Candidate of Geographical Sciences. Support in organizing the expedition was provided by the Dagestan Republican, Moscow and Tula regional branches of the Russian Geographical Society.

The purpose of the spring stage of research in Derbent was to collect scientific material for the formation of a strategy for the development of the Caspian Sea coast as one of the main domestic centers of coastal and underwater tourism. Sergey Fazlullin spoke about the prospects and importance of this area during a speech at the Institute of Ecology and Sustainable Development of the Dagestan State University. The event was held within the framework of the All-Russian project of the Russian Geographical Society “NON-geography lesson”.

Recreational diving is currently regarded as one of the fastest growing areas of tourism. But to ensure its sustainable development, the interaction of numerous parties is required, and at times they pursue fundamentally different interests. This includes meeting the needs of the tourists themselves, and the priorities of the socio-economic development of the destination, and the tasks of preserving the underwater environment in an untouched state, and the general environmental strategy for the development of the coastal territoryemphasized Sergey Fazlullin in his speech.

In Dagestan, a team of researchers plans to conduct a comprehensive study of the underwater historical and cultural heritage of the region. The result of the work should be a number of profile maps and diagrams. The ultimate goal of the project is to create Russia’s first underwater marine park in the vicinity of Derbent. Such parks can be compared with national nature reserves or with expositions of local history museums, but with one caveat – their objects are hidden under water.

Divers are drawn to the study of sunken ships located at shallow depths. It makes no sense to raise them to land, since such ships quickly collapse in the air, and the rise itself requires a lot of money. Instead, a person puts on a wetsuit and goes underwater with a guide.– Sergey Fazlullin explained.

Expedition members study archival documents and exhibits of Derbent museums. The collected information provides the key to understanding what the Caspian may hide in its depths off the Derbent coast. The very first acquaintance with the underwater world within the framework of the project has borne fruit.

Members of the Moscow branch of the Russian Geographical Society Alexei Tarasov and Konstantin Davydov, during a sonar survey of the old port part of the city, revealed strange elevations at the bottom. Divers from the Tula region Alexander Bulychev and Andrey Berbenets went to explore them.

At a depth of 4–5 m, near the outcrop of rocks, divers discovered ancient anchors overgrown with shells. Apparently, the expedition managed to find a place for the anchorage of ships, where in the distant past, unloading and delivery of goods to the piers could be carried out.

It is too early to judge the age of the anchors, but, according to experts, one of them may belong to the early Middle Ages and date back to the 7th-11th centuries. Four-horned cat anchors, presumably from the 18th century, lying here, could well belong to the ships of Peter I– said Oleg Zolotarev, chairman of the Tula regional branch of the Russian Geographical Society.

Exactly the same anchors, as noted by the members of the expedition, can be seen in the citadel of the Derbent fortress.

True, an ancient anchor of an unusual T-shape in the fortress is represented only by a fragment, and an absolutely whole one was found at the bottom! Oleg Zolotarev emphasized.

Works within the perspective project will be continued.

Alexander Zhirnov

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