Antikythera Shipwreck: 2,000-Year-Old Skeleton Discovered Amid Wreckage

Jennifer Deutschmann - Author

Oct. 28 2016, Updated 6:08 p.m. ET

The Antikythera shipwreck, which was initially discovered in 1900, has yielded numerous priceless treasures, including the Antikythera mechanism. However, divers found something equally significant during a more recent expedition. In August, underwater archaeologists found a well-preserved 2,000-year-old skeleton amid the wreckage.

The cargo ship’s specific point of origin and travel route are unknown. However, scientists believe it set sail from Delos, Ephesus, or Pergamon, and was heading toward the port of Pozzuoli in Naples, Italy.

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It is estimated that the ship was overwhelmed during a strong storm and sank between 70 and 50 BC. Greek Travel Blog reports the famous shipwreck was discovered by Aegean Sea sponge divers in November 1900.

As it is located near the island of Antikythera, it was dubbed the Antikythera shipwreck.

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The discovery was immediately reported to the Archaeological Service of Greece, which organized the first expedition to the site. Over the next year, divers recovered numerous significant antiquities from the wreckage. However, the most intriguing discovery was a bronze and wooden clockwork device.

Dubbed the Antikythera mechanism, the device “displayed the motions of the Sun, Moon, and planets on precisely marked dials.” As explained by, the astronomical bodies are set into motion by turning a wooden handle.

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Tech Times reports scientists also believe the device, which was likely built in B.C.E. 100, displayed an Egyptian calendar and the Greek zodiac.

With an estimated 40 different cogs and gears, the Antikythera mechanism is commonly referred to as the earliest known analog computer. More than 115 years after its discovery, the device, and its astronomical theories, are still being studied.

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More than 70 years after the first expedition, the Greek Archaeological Society arranged a much larger exploration of the Antikythera shipwreck site.

During the 1976 expedition, the Greek Archaeological Service, which was assisted by Jacques Cousteau’s Calypso, recovered a significant portion of the ship’s cargo. The treasures included coins, glassware, jewellery, pottery, and the ship’s lead anchor.

In addition to the artifacts, divers have discovered fragments of human remains among the wreckage. However, as expected, the remains were significantly deteriorated.

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Last month, underwater archaeologists returned to the Antikythera shipwreck for further excavation. Fewer than two feet under a pile of pottery and sand, the scientists discovered an impressively well-preserved skeleton.

According to reports, the recovered bones include “a partial skull with three teeth, two arm bones, several rib pieces and two femurs.” The scientists are confident that the bones all belong to the same person, who is believed to be a male in his 20s.

Although the Antikythera mechanism remains the most significant object found amid the wreckage, the skeleton is significant for different reasons.

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DNA specialist Hannes Schroeder said the skeleton would be tested to confirm the victim’s gender. The results may also provide other information about the man’s ancestry and nation of origin.

Brendan Foley, who is credited with discovering the skeleton, said he is proud to be part of the team that made the significant find. He also said he is looking forward to seeing the results from the DNA analysis.

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“Now we’re face to face with someone who sailed that ship, face to face with someone who might have handled the [Antikythera] mechanism… We can look through his eyes at the voyage, at the wreck, at the whole first century B.C.”

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Although the Antikythera shipwreck expeditions have been few and far between, each exploration has revealed incredibly rare artifacts.

The Antikythera mechanism has provided astronomers with a glimpse into ancient astronomy and theories that remain significant to this day. The recently discovered skeleton will also provide scientists with an interesting glimpse into the lives of those who perished in the Antikythera shipwreck.

[Featured Image by Michael Bogner/Shutterstock]


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