The famous Greek Antikythera shipwreck, named after a nearby island, was first discovered by Greek sponge divers in 1900. Since then, countless treasures have been recovered including numerous statues and pieces of the world’s first computer – the Antikythera mechanism.
Between August 26 and September 16, an international team of divers, archaeologists and support personnel returned to the shipwreck. A ten-man dive team performed 61 dives in ten days. And it marked the first time archaeologists joined divers at the 180 feet deep site according to Woods Hole Institute. The four archaeologists’ experience proved vital in recovering more than 50 items. But there’s still much to recover.
“This shipwreck is far from exhausted,” reports Project co-Director Dr. Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). “Every single dive on it delivers fabulous finds, and reveals how the ‘1 percent’ lived in the time of Caesar.”
What kind of ‘1 percent’ items did they find? A bronze armrest (which may have come from a throne), remains of a bone flute, ceramics, glassware and a pawn from an ancient board game. The archaeologists even recovered several pieces of the ship itself.
The work done in August and September was made possible by an expedition launched in 2014. Last year, researchers created a high-resolution, 3D map of the shipwreck area. Diving was mostly hampered by bad weather last year, but professional divers were able to dive for four days. These dives showed much of the ship’s cargo is still preserved beneath the sediment.
Researchers know more about the Antikythera shipwreck today than they ever have.
From the release:
The 2015 expedition has left the team with the best understanding yet of this unique shipwreck and its cargo. A metal detection survey of the site revealed that metallic targets are dispersed over an area of about 40×50 meters. This is thought to match the wreck’s debris field, indicating the vast size of the ship that sank off the forbidding cliffs of Antikythera.
Using metal detectors, the divers recovered several buried objects including an intact amphora (an ancient jar used to store wine or oils), a large lead salvage ring, fragments of a lead hull sheathing, a chiseled rectangular stone object. This stone object is perforated by 12 holes and is filled with an unidentified substance.
To find most of the artifacts, the ten-man dive team excavated a series of nine trenches using a water dredge powered by a submersible.
We were very lucky this year, as we excavated many finds within their context, which gave us the opportunity to take full advantage of all the archaeological information they could provide,” said diving archaeologist Dr. Theodoulou.
And now the science work begins. Scientific analysis of each artifact is now underway. This includes ancient DNA analysis of ceramic jars to figure out the 2,000-year-old food, drinks, perfumes and medicines contained in them. Analysis of lead objects could help determine where the material was mined and ultimately where the home port of this ship was.
This won’t be the last we hear of the Antikythera shipwreck.