Antikythera’s shipwreck reveals new treasures

By . Published on 23 October 2017 in:
News, October 2017, , , , , ,

September 2017 – the island of Antikythera is under the spotlights again.

Revealed to the world at the beginning of the 20th century, the area saw a Greek ship sink more than 2,000 years ago. Among the luxury goods conveyed was an unusual object named after the island: the Antikythera Mechanism. This instrument made of a complex association of gears is the first astronomical device known in the world.

Since the first deep-sea diving expeditions in the early 1900′s, several others have been organised, enriching the collection of goods such as jewellery, fragments of statues, glass vessel or coins.

Bronze arm of statue
Bronze arm of statue (right-click to enlarge image)

In 2014, a team of divers from the “Return to Antikythera” project, led by Brendan Foley (University of Lund), established a precise 3D map of the shipwreck area.

In 2016, additionally to clay and metal artefacts, several human bones were located, which is an exceptional find in submarine archaeology. The humain remains were in a state of preservation good enough to allow DNA analysis.

This year, between 4 and 20 September, the “Return to Antikythera” team were able to work thanks to excellent weather conditions. Big stone boulders that were obstructing access to the hold of the ship were removed. The artefacts that were recovered from the intact hold include the big arm of a statue and a fragment of clothing, both made of bronze, a piece of marble statue, a sarcophagus lid, smaller fragments of pottery, nails or parts of the ship structure, to cite only a few.

More objects will be further analysed to be identified. One remarkable piece is a bronze disk decorated with a bull. With its four fixing elements and its size, although without any gears, the disk undoubtedly recalls the Antikythera Mechanism and paves the way for new assumptions about the still intriguing Machine.

Bronze disk with decoration and its radiography
Bronze disk with decoration and its radiography

The divers detected an important amount of metal, allowing the excavation of several bronze statues in the future. The latter are quite rare, there are fewer than 200 in the world. “It’s not going to be just the bronze sculptures,” said Brendan Foley in an interview to the Guardian. “We’re down in the hold of the ship now, so all the other things that would have been carried should be down there as well. Every day is going to be like opening Tut’s tomb.”

These findings pave the way to dream and imagination. Additional exciting discoveries could be made during the next expedition scheduled in 2018 and might unveil more secrets of this ship and its fantastic cargo.


More info

  1. 60th International Conference for Students of Physics and Natural Sciences “Open Readings”
  2. EPS Executive Committee and Staff activities September 2017
  3. Europhoton 2018

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