It was more than 2,000 years ago when a Greek ship sank off the coast of Antikythera. The sunken ship would go undiscovered until the spring of 1900. Stormy seas led sponge divers to dive along the island’s coast.
Ilias Stadiatis, a diver aboard the sponge hunting vessel, found the wreckage at a depth of around 50 meters. Stadiatis brought proof of his find back to the surface with an arm from a bronze statue.
Since the discovery, researchers have found a treasure trove of artifacts including statues, jewellery and the Antikythera Mechanism – often called the first known computer. It’s believed to have been used to make astronomical predictions.
The recovery back in 1900 was eventually called off after one diver died from the bends and two more were seriously injured.
Using a state-of-the-art exosuit, an international team of researchers are back at the Antikythera site. This exosuit allows divers to spend three hours in the water, and uses rebreather tech to scrub carbon dioxide out of the exhaled air.
“The evidence shows this is the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered,” says Brendan Foley, who works at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “It’s the Titanic of the ancient world.”
Researchers found the shipwreck site was a lot bigger than the sponge divers from 1900 realized. Wreckage covers 300 meters of the sea floor. Combine that with the size of the anchors and hull planks, and researchers peg the length of the ship at up to 50 meters long.
The divers and archaeologists made several new finds at the dive site including an intact table jug, part of a bed leg and a 2 meter-long bronze spear. Check it out in the image below. Foley speculates the spear is part of a large statue.
The team is already planning a return trip to the site next year. The new discoveries, particularly the bronze spear were described by Theotokis Theodoulou – works at the Hellenic Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities – as “very promising.”
“We have a lot of work to do at this site to uncover its secrets.”
Image credits: Brett Seymour