New Treasures from Antikythera Wreck
Archaeologists excavating the famous ancient Greek shipwreck that yielded the Antikythera mechanism have recovered more than 50 items
The items include a bronze armrest (possibly part of a throne), remains of a bone flute, fine glassware, luxury ceramics, a pawn from an ancient board game, and several elements of the ship itself.
‘This shipwreck is far from exhausted,’ said 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 per cent’ lived in the time of Caesar.’
The shipwreck dates to circa 65 BC, and was discovered by Greek sponge fishermen in 1900 off the southwestern Aegean island of Antikythera. They salvaged 36 marble statues of mythological heroes and gods; a life-sized bronze statue of an athlete; pieces of several more bronze sculptures; scores of luxury items; and skeletal remains of crew and passengers. The wreck also relinquished fragments of the world’s first computer: the Antikythera Mechanism, a geared mechanical device that encoded the movements of the planets and stars and predicted eclipses.
The 2015 expedition is part of a long-term research program at the site, which began in 2014. It was the first scientific excavation of the wreck, and launched the first comprehensive study of all of its artifacts. During the new multi-year program the team expects to recover artifacts and ancient artwork still buried in the seafloor, and recreate the history of the ship’s exquisite cargo and its final voyage.
During an expedition mounted in 2014 the researchers created a high-resolution, 3D map of the site using stereo cameras mounted on an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). Hampered by bad weather, the expedition included just four dive days for professional technical divers who recovered a series of finds on the surface sediment and proved that much of the ship’s cargo is indeed still preserved beneath the sediment.
By contrast, 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, and with the guidance of an exquisitely precise multi-dimensional map of 10,500 square meters of sea floor.