Obscure Objects Found at Antikythera Shipwreck
The Greek Ministry of Culture has announced a series of finds that were rescued from one of the world’s most famous shipwreck sites. Bones and a range of obscure objects were recovered from the seabed near the Antikythera shipwreck. These are helping to provide marine archaeologists with a window into the Mediterranean during the Classical era.
The recovery of the remains and objects were made at the Antikythera shipwreck famous for the remarkable mechanism found there. This important site was being investigated by an all Greek team for the first-time, led ‘by Dr. Angeliki Simosi, Head of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Euboea’, according to Antikythera.net. The latest expedition was part of a five-year research program. This famous ancient shipwreck is located near the island of Antikythera, which is to the south of the Peloponnese and was first found over a century ago by sponge-divers. The location of the wreck means it is not suitable for remotely operated underwater vehicles or scuba divers and so it has been very difficult to investigate.
Members of the Coast Guard Submarine Disaster Unit Special Dive Team examine and recover many objects at the Antikythera Wreck. (Greek Ministry of Culture)
The Antikythera shipwreck is a Greek merchant vessel that dates from the First Century BC. It is famous as the site where a mechanism, believed to be the world’s first analog computer was found. It was made to make astronomical predictions. The wreck has yielded many other archaeological treasures down the years, including jewelry, coins, and amphorae. According to Newsweek, other finds include ‘three life-size marble horses’ and ‘a seven-foot-tall statue of Herakles’.
The mission was sponsored by the Greek government, charitable foundations, and the Swiss watchmaker Hublot. In 2017 another expedition to the wreck identified several areas of interest on the seabed. The sand from these was placed into five bags, so that anything they contained, of archaeological importance, could be preserved. The divers left them in-situ because they could not retrieve them and bring them to the surface in 2017.
Research scientist Dr. George Koutsouflakis moves an amphora from the Antikythera shipwreck cargo. (Greek Ministry of Culture)
Discoveries on the seabed
The expedition to the wreck was very successful despite the bad weather and the choppy sea. The mission was supported by the ‘Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation with the contribution of the ship ‘Typhoon’’ reports Antikythera.net. This support vessel enabled the team to recover the sacks that had been left on the seafloor by the expedition in 2017. This expedition’s main aim was the rescue of these bags. Also recovered was a basket, of amphora fragments, that had also been gathered by the expedition in 2017.
All the recovered bags were taken to the conservation laboratory of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities. Their contents were carefully sifted, which was overseen by two experts. During this process, a number of bones and bronze items were recovered.
The bronze items included nails and four spikes on a piece of wood, that was possibly used in the construction of the Roman-era ship. The bronze ring that was uncovered is something of a mystery. Another mysterious find was an ‘an iron stub with a circular end’ reports Newsweek.
The amphorae found included the bodies of jars and also ‘the bases and the necks from the main bodies of the vases’ reports Greek News. Some of the bases came from the Greek island of Kos. Another jar base is of an unknown origin. Newsweek reports that ‘Three amphorae necks—two from southern Italy and one from Kos— and one intact amphora from Kos were also found at the site’.
A large number of what are apparently olive kernels have also been found. The amphorae may have contained olive oil and even olives. The origins of the jars and their probable contents could help researchers to better understand maritime trade in the Mediterranean in the First Century BC.
Ancient bones at the wreck site
The bones that were recovered from the seabed have not been identified. It is not known if they are from humans or animals. Scientific analysis of the remains may provide the answers. It is likely that if the remains are human they are the remains of sailors who died in the wreck.
During the expedition, the divers also mapped the wreck site using, photogrammetric mapping equipment. It is believed that the result of the expedition is going to be published. The team who made the discoveries are preparing for another 5-year phase of the research project, which will begin in 2020. There is every expectation that new finds and even some treasures will be recovered from the ancient shipwreck.
Top image: New finds made at the latest Antikythera shipwreck search. Source: Greek ministry of Culture
By Ed Whelan