Antikythera Shipwreck Yields an Ancient Skeleton

The Antikythera shipwreck is the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered. It was discovered and salvaged in 1900 by Greek sponge divers. The ship was thought to be a massive grain carrier. The divers uncovered dozens of marble statues and thousands of antiquities, along with the Antikythera mechanism — an astounding artifact known as the world’s first computer.

In 1976, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and the CALYPSO crew returned to the wreck and recovered nearly 300 more objects, including skeletal remains of the passengers and crew.

2,000-Year-Old Skeleton found on Ancient Shipwreck. (Image via GeoBeats News YouTube/Screenshot)

2,000-year-old skeleton found on ancient shipwreck. (Image via GeoBeats News YouTube/Screenshot)

The skeleton discovered on August 31, 2016 is the first to be recovered from an ancient shipwreck since the advent of DNA studies. Ancient DNA expert Dr. Hannes Schroeder of the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen hastened to the Antikythera to view the remains.

Once permission is obtained from the Greek authorities, samples will be sent to his laboratory for a full suite of analyses. If enough viable DNA is preserved in the bones, it may be possible to identify the ethnicity and geographic origin of the shipwreck victim.

Dr. Hannes Schroeder:

The Antikythera research team generates precise three-dimensional digital models of every artifact, allowing discoveries to be shared instantly and widely even if the objects remain on the sea floor.

The Antikythera mechanism consists of a complex system of 30 wheels and plates with inscriptions relating to signs of the zodiac, months, eclipses and pan-Hellenic games. The study of the fragments suggests that this was a kind of astrolabe. The interpretation now generally accepted dates back to studies by Professor w:en:Derek de Solla Price, who was the first to suggest that the mechanism is a machine to calculate the solar and lunar calendar, that is to say, an ingenious machine to determine the time based on the movements of the sun and moon, their relationship (eclipses) and the movements of other stars and planets known at that time. (Image: via wikipedia / CC BY 2.5)

The Antikythera mechanism consists of a complex system of 30 wheels and plates with inscriptions relating to signs of the zodiac, months, eclipses, and pan-Hellenic games. A study of the fragments suggests that this was a kind of astrolabe. The interpretation now generally accepted dates back to studies by Professor Derek de Solla Price, who was the first to suggest that the mechanism is a machine to calculate the solar and lunar calendar, that is to say, an ingenious machine to determine the time based on the movements of the sun and moon, their relationship (eclipses), and the movements of other stars and planets known at that time. (Image: via wikipedia / CC BY 2.5)

Led by archaeologists and technical experts from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the team excavated and recovered a human skull, including a jaw and teeth, long bones of the arms and legs, ribs, and other remains.

Other portions of the skeleton are still embedded in the seafloor, awaiting excavation during the next phase of operations.

The project is supported by corporate partners Hublot, Autodesk, Cosmote, Costa Navarino Resort, and private sponsors Swordspoint Foundation, Jane and James Orr, Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation, the Domestic Property Committee of Kythera and Antikythera, the Municipality of Kythera, and private sponsors of WHOI.

Watch a video introducing the discovery of the Antikythera shipwreck:

Some of the artifacts from the shipwreck, such as the Antikythera mechanism (world’s first computer), are on permanent display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece.

Written by George Orfanos

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