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Ancient Greek Ship Antikythera Gives Up More Secrets

There have been many finds, such as
the Antikythera mechanism, which some call the 'world's oldest computer.'
(Image: Brett Seymour, EUA/ARGO)
There have been many finds, such as the Antikythera mechanism, which some call the 'world's oldest computer.' (Image: Brett Seymour, EUA/ARGO)

The ancient Greek ship Antikythera sank over 2,000 years ago, and is now giving up more of its treasure. The shipwreck was originally found in 1900, when Greek sponge fishermen were diving for golden sponges.

Captain Dimitrios Kondos had decided to anchor while a storm was passing over the Greek island of Antikythera. It was there the crew dived for golden sponges when they made the discovery. The sponge diver salvaged a life-sized bronze statue of an athlete, 36 marble statues of mythological heroes and gods, and the skeletal remains of its crew and passengers.

Watch the Baselworld 2015 Hublot Antikythera press conference:

Since 2014, archaeologists have systematically excavated the ancient Greek shipwreck from circa 65 B.C. There have been many discoveries.

One major find is the Antikythera mechanism, which some call the ‘world’s oldest computer.’

The Antikythera is a device that is mechanically geared to show the movement of planets, stars, and also can predict eclipses.

Hear the story of the Ancient computer — the Antikythera mechanism:

In recent excavations, there have been more than 50 items found that include a bronze armrest, glassware, luxury ceramics, a pawn from an ancient board game, remains of a bone flute, and several pieces of the ship itself. But it has yet to give up all its treasure.

Dr. Brendan Foley, the project co-director and also marine archaeologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), said in a press release: “This shipwreck is far from exhausted. Every single dive on it delivers fabulous finds, and reveals how the ‘1 percent’ lived in the time of Caesar.”

The 2015 expedition, called “Return to Antikythera,” is part of a long-term program that began in 2014.

It is the first scientific excavation of the wreck that also includes a full comprehensive study of all of its artifacts for the first time:

Dr. Theodoulou, one of the diving archaeologists from the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, said: “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.”

The 2015 expedition had a 10-man dive team using advanced diving equipment. The teams managed to carry out over 60 dives in just 10 days. Using a metal detector to survey the area, they found there were metallic artifacts buried over an area of 130 x 165 feet (40 x 50 meters). A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was also used to monitor and record all underwater activities.

Archaeologists excavating the famous ancient Greek shipwreck that yielded the Antikythera mechanism have recovered more than 50 items including an intact amphora; a large lead salvage ring; two lead anchor stocks (possibly indicating the ship’s bow); fragments of lead hull sheathing; and a small and finely formed lagynos (or table jug). (Image: Brett Seymour, EUA/ARGO)

Archaeologists excavating the famous ancient Greek shipwreck have recovered more than 50 items. (Image: Brett Seymour/EUA,ARGO)

According to a WHOI press release, the dive team had recovered items that included an intact amphora; a large lead salvage ring; two lead anchor stocks, which possibly indicates the ship’s bow; fragments of lead hull sheathing; a small and finely formed lagynos or table jug; and a chiseled rectangular stone object (possibly the base of a statuette), perforated by 12 holes and filled with an as-yet-unidentified substance.

This year’s expedition included 40 hours of bottom time, with four professional archaeologists diving the site and performing controlled excavation to the highest scientific standard with specially designed equipment.

This year’s expedition included 40 hours of work, with four professional archaeologists diving the site and performing controlled excavation with specially designed equipment. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Dr. Foley of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution told The Huffington Post in an email:

These artifacts show us the life of a newly emerging elite in Greece and Rome.

“[There is] enormous wealth distributed among a larger elite than ever before in history,” he added.

“The ship and its cargo represent the start of an economy based on consumption of products from a wide area, borne on sea lanes, and supported by new mechanisms of insurance and diversification of risk.”

It is hoped that DNA testing of the wood may reveal the origins of the ship, and testing of the lead that has been recovered may tell us where it was mined and the ship’s home port. It is also hoped that by using DNA samples from the ceramic jars, we may be able to find out more about what they contained.

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