Spectacular finds from ancient greek shipwreck: New Antihythera discoveries prove luxury cargo survives

Related Articles

Related Articles

A team of Greek and international divers and archaeologists have retrieved stunning new discoveries from an ancient Greek ship that sank over 2,000 years ago off the remote island of Antikythera. The rescued antiquities include tableware, ship components and a giant bronze spear that would have belonged to a life-sized warrior statue.

The Antikythera wreck was first discovered back in 1900 by sponge divers who were blown off course by a storm. They subsequently recovered an outstanding haul of ancient treasures including bronze and marble statues, jewellery, furniture, luxury glassware, and the surprisingly complex Antikythera Mechanism. However, they were forced to end their mission prematurely at the 55-meter-deep site after one diver died of the bends and two were paralysed. Ever since, archaeologists have been left wondering if the site is home to even more treasure buried beneath the seabed.

Now a team of international archaeologists including Brendan Foley from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Theotokis Theodoulou from the Hellenic Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities have returned to the treacherous site, this time accompanied with state-of-the-art technology. During the first excavation season, taking place from September 15th to October 7th 2014, the researchers have created a high-resolution, 3D map of the site using stereo cameras mounted on an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). Divers proceeded to recover a series of finds that prove that much of the ship’s cargo is indeed still preserved beneath the sediment.

 

Components of the ship, including multiple lead anchors over a metre long and a bronze rigging ring with fragments of wood still attached, prove that a large proportion of the ship survives. The discoveries were also scattered over a much larger area than the sponge divers anticipated, covering 300 metres of the seafloor. This, along with the huge size of the anchors and recovered hull planks, proves that the Antikythera ship was much larger than previously thought, possibly up to 50 metres long.

“This evidence shows that this is the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered,” says Foley. “It’s the Titanic of the ancient world.”

The archaeologists also recovered a beautiful intact table jug, part of an ornate bed leg, and most impressive of all the finds, a two-metre-long bronze spear buried just beneath the surface of the sand. It is too large and heavy to have been used as a weapon, therefore, it must have belonged to a giant statue, perhaps a warrior or the goddess Athena, says Foley. In 1901, four giant marble horses were discovered on the wreck by sponge divers, it is thought that these possibly formed a complex of statues involving a warrior in a chariot that was pulled by four horses.

A statute of the goddess Athena with her spear: Flickr
A statute of the goddess Athena with her spear: Flickr

The shipwreck dates from 70 to 60 BC and is thought to have been carrying a luxury cargo of Greek treasures from the coast of Asia Minor west to Rome. Antikythera is located in the middle of this major shipping route and the ship probably sank when a violent storm smashed it against the island’s sheer cliffs.

The wreck is too deep to dive safely with regular scuba equipment, so the divers had to use rebreather technology, in which carbon dioxide is scrubbed from the exhaled air while oxygen is introduced and recirculated. This enabled them to dive on the site for up to three hours at a time.

The archaeologists plan to return next year to excavate the site further and recover more of the ship’s precious cargo. The finds, particularly the bronze spear, are “very promising,” says Theodolou. “We have a lot of work to do at this site to uncover its secrets.”

 

 

 

Contributing Source: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 

Header Image Source: Wikimedia

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

Inside the Ice Giants of Space

A new theoretical method paves the way to modelling the interior of the ice giants Uranus and Neptune, thanks to computer simulations on the water contained within them.

Innovative Method Opens up New Perspectives for Reconstructing Climatic Conditions of Past Eras

Corals precipitate their calcareous skeletons (calcium carbonate) from seawater. Over thousands of years, vast coral reefs form due to the deposition of this calcium carbonate.

New Study Supports Predictions That the Arctic Could be Free of Sea Ice by 2035

A new study, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, supports predictions that the Arctic could be free of sea ice by 2035.

Rare ‘Boomerang’ Earthquake Observed Along Atlantic Ocean Fault Line

Scientists have tracked a 'boomerang' earthquake in the ocean for the first time, providing clues about how they could cause devastation on land.

The Evolution of Colourful Feathers Shines Light on the Missing Link in Evolution by Natural Selection

There's a paradox within the theory of evolution: The life forms that exist today are here because they were able to change when past environments disappeared. Yet, organisms evolve to fit into specific environmental niches.

Study Confirms the Power of Deinosuchus & its ‘Teeth the Size of Bananas’

A new study, revisiting fossil specimens from the enormous crocodylian, Deinosuchus, has confirmed that the beast had teeth "the size of bananas", capable to take down even the very largest of dinosaurs.

The Lost Town of Trellech

Trellech is a small rural village in south-east Wales, but during the 13th century, it was one of the largest medieval towns in all of Wales.

The Varangian Guard – When Vikings Served the Eastern Roman Empire

The Varangian Guard was an elite unit that served as the personal bodyguards for the emperors of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire).

Popular stories

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.

The Real Dracula?

“Dracula”, published in 1897 by the Irish Author Bram Stoker, introduced audiences to the infamous Count and his dark world of sired vampiric minions.