Artifacts discovered on return expedition to Antikythera shipwreck

June 21, 2016, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Antikythera team members Nikolas Giannoulakis, Theotokis Theodoulou, and Brendan Foley inspect small finds from the Shipwreck while decompressing after a dive to 50 m (265 feet). Credit: Brett Seymour, EUA/WHOI/ARGO

An international research team has discovered spectacular artifacts during its ongoing excavation of the famous Antikythera Shipwreck (circa 65 B.C.) this month. The shipwreck is located off the Greek island of Antikythera in the Aegean Sea.

Led by archaeologists and technical experts from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the team recovered 60 artifacts including gold jewelry, luxury glassware, a bronze spear from a statue, elements of marble sculptures, resin/incense, ceramic decanters, and a unique artifact that may have been a defensive weapon to protect the massive ship against attacks from pirates. The team also confirmed the wreck of a second ancient cargo ship close by the Antikythera vessel.

"Our new technologies extend capabilities for marine science," said Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with WHOI. "Every new dive on the Antikythera Shipwreck delivers gifts from the ancient past. The wreck offers touchstones to the full range of the human experience: from religion, music, and art, to travel, trade, and even warfare."

The Antikythera Shipwreck, the largest ancient ever discovered, was possibly a massive grain carrier. It was discovered and salvaged in 1900 by Greek sponge divers. In addition to dozens of marble statues and thousands of antiquities, their efforts produced 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.

Project co-Directors Theotokis Theodoulou and Brendan Foley compare ceramic containers recovered from the Antikythera Shipwreck. Credit: Brett Seymour, EUA/WHOI/ARGO

The current high-tech, collaborative project brings robots, technical diving, and new laboratory analyses to this remarkable shipwreck. After precisely mapping a 10,500-square-meter (2.6 acres) area of sea floor around the wrecks with an autonomous robot, the team's divers descend to 52 meters (170 feet) using mixed-gas, closed-circuit rebreathers to exactly locate, document, and retrieve the artifacts. Among other inquiries, the isotopes of recovered lead objects are analyzed to determine their origin, and ancient DNA is extracted from ceramic jars to reveal the food, drink, and medicines consumed by the ancient seafarers. The 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 .

"Reality Computing is bridging the physical and digital world, " said Autodesk Explorer-in-Residence Jonathan Knowles. "We see great potential in working with WHOI to capture, analyze, and share the wonders of Antikythera with the world. "

Brendan Foley recovers a gold ring from the Antikythera Shipwreck. Credit: Brett Seymour, EUA/WHOI/ARGO

Professional technical diver Gemma Smith studies artifacts on the Antikythera Shipwreck. Credit: Brett Seymour, EUA/WHOI/ARGO
Brendan Foley compares amphora styles on the Antikythera Shipwreck. Credit: Brett Seymour, EUA/WHOI/ARGO

Explore further: Greece: Wreck survey fails to find more parts of ancient cog

Related Stories

Marine archaeologists excavate Greek Antikythera shipwreck

September 25, 2015

Archaeologists excavating the famous ancient Greek shipwreck that yielded the Antikythera mechanism have recovered more than 50 items including a bronze armrest (possibly part of a throne), remains of a bone flute, fine glassware, ...

Stunning finds from ancient Greek shipwreck

October 9, 2014

A Greek and international team of divers and archaeologists has retrieved stunning new finds from an ancient Greek ship that sank more than 2,000 years ago off the remote island of Antikythera. The rescued antiquities include ...

Recommended for you

How other people affect our interpersonal space

May 24, 2018

Have you ever felt the urge to cross the road or move seats on a train after a conversation taking place nearby suddenly becomes aggressive? Well, for the first time a scientific study has shown how the size of your interpersonal ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Osiris1
not rated yet Jun 22, 2016
O Swami tell us more about the 'defensive artifact'. Inquiring minds would like to know......... if it is not 'classified'. In which case the pathoskeptics would on instructions from their government masters or whatever interested government to have a field day accusing it of not being 'peer reviewed'.

Doesn't take much more horse sense that a horseradish to know that anything of military value will NEVER be let out of the sight of the military evaluators' they will NEVER be 'peer reviewed'; and ALL the results will be classified even more!! One reason why the 'em-drive' and its much more powerful Chinese superconducting generation two model ARE likely VERY classified and will remain so. Let the mice have their day, Governments KNOW how valuable it is, and it is probably going in to black projects with classified titles at Area-51, Akademgorodok, and ShangHai RIGHT NOW!!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.