Press release about the 2017 expedition

The Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities completed the new underwater excavation/mission at the Antikythera Shipwreck. The research lasted from 4th to 20th of September under excellent weather conditions for first time after 2014 when was completed the detailed mapping of the area where a Roman era ship was wrecked. The ship was loaded with a cargo of art pieces and luxury goods, among of which the famous Antikythera Mechanism was also recovered.

The excavation was continued at the trench from where human remains were recovered last year, plus equipment of the ship itself like lead pipes, counterweights, iron encrustations of possible ship tools, etc. The trench continued to deliver similar material among ample pottery shards of amphorae and other vessels.

Meanwhile the excavation was extended to two more areas where marble and bronze statue fragments where located under big stone boulders that slip to the area because of a severe seismic event. Notable among the fragments is a bronze arm, that increases the number of bronze statues that are considered to lie down at the site, taken in consideration the sparse elements recovered before. Another important bronze statue element is that of a clothing/dressing. Distinguished among the marble fragments is also that of a nude possible male leg embedded on a base (plinth) that was located under a huge boulder.

Further smallest finds, pottery shards, nails, lead sheathing fragments as well as objects that witness the passing from the site of the Cousteau – MOCS team in 1976, were plotted or recovered. Several unidentified -though initial visual observation- finds are also supposed to be studied further for their interpretation. Most considerable one seems to be a metal disc with four holed protrusions, decorated with a bull that was observed with the use of x-rays.

Exclusively significant are also fragments of the ship-shell (skeleton and planking) that was located. These, in consideration with the rest of the finds, the location where they were found and the information that we have from the 1900 salvage illuminates the picture of the nautical accident.

The research has been conducted as always under the direction of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities through its Head Aggeliki Simossi with scientific leaders in the field the archaeologists Theotokis Theodoulou and Dimitris Kourkoumelis. Participating to the research team, Dr Brendan Foley of Lund University, archaeologists Dr Alexandros Tourtas and candidate PhD Paolo Iglic, tech divers Phil Short, Gemma Smith, Alexandros Sotiriou, Nikos Yannoulakis, the underwater photographer Brett Seymour, the underwater videographer Evan Kovacs and the videographer Michael Tsimberopoulos. The project was also supported by Michalis Kelaidis, D. Romios, Elias Charalambous and Dimitra Kotsi.

The project is under the aegis of the President of the Hellenic Republic and was financed from sources secured by Dr Brendan Foley and delivered through Lund University and the Non Profit Argo.

The project was supported by the Swiss watchmaker company Hublot, the Swordspoint Foundation (USA), Autodesk, COSMOTE, Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation and the Kythera and Antikythera Domestic Property Committee.

Special thanks are due to Kythera Municipality and the heroic inhabitants of Antikythera who always welcome the team and support it with any mean.

Watch the video from the 2017 expedition:

Ancient Skeleton discovered at the Antikythera Shipwreck

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The “Return to Antikythera” international research team discovered a human skeleton during its ongoing excavation of the famous Antikythera Shipwreck (circa 65 B.C.). The shipwreck, which holds the remains of a Greek trading or cargo ship, is located off the Greek island of Antikythera in the Aegean Sea. The first skeleton recovered from the wreck site during the era of DNA analysis, this find could provide insight into the lives of people who lived 2100 years ago.

Led by archaeologists and technical experts from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the team excavated and recovered a human skull including a jaw and teeth, long bones of the arms and legs, ribs, and other remains. Other portions of the skeleton are still embedded in the seafloor, awaiting excavation during the next phase of operations.

“Archaeologists study the human past through the objects our ancestors created,” said Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with WHOI. “With the Antikythera Shipwreck, we can now connect directly with this person who sailed and died aboard the Antikythera ship.”

The Antikythera Shipwreck is the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered, 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.

The skeleton discovered on August 31, 2016, is the first to be recovered from an ancient shipwreck since the advent of DNA studies. Ancient DNA expert Dr. Hannes Schroeder of the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, hastened to Antikythera to view the remains. Once permission is obtained from the Greek authorities, samples will be sent to his laboratory for a full suite of analyses. If enough viable DNA is preserved in the bones, it may be possible to identify the ethnicity and geographic origin of the shipwreck victim.

“Against all odds, the bones survived over 2,000 years at the bottom of the sea and they appear to be in fairly good condition, which is incredible,” said Schroeder.

The Antikythera research 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 sea floor. Several 3D models of the skeletal remains are available for researchers and the public to view on our devoted webpage.

Jonathan Knowles, Autodesk Explorer In Residence, said, “Our reality capture technology is not only helping share the amazing story of the Antikythera wreck with the world using digital models and 3D printed artifacts, it is enabling important preservation and furthering meaningful research.”

The project is supported by corporate partners Hublot (official diving watch and technical support), Autodesk, Cosmote (official telecommunication sponsor), Costa Navarino Resort (helicopter support) and private sponsors Swordspoint Foundation, Jane and James Orr, the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation, the Domestic Property Committee of Kythera and Antikythera, the Municipality of Kythera, and private sponsors of WHOI.

The research team consists of archaeologists Dr. Theotokis Theodoulou and Dr. Dimitris Kourkoumelis (Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports); Research Specialist Dr. Brendan Foley (WHOI); archaeologist Alexander Tourtas; professional technical divers Edward O’Brien (WHOI), Philip Short, Alexandros Sotiriou, Nikolas Giannoulakis, and Gemma Smith; videographer Evan Kovacs; documentary director Michalis Tsimperopoulos; supported by Michalis Kelaidis, Dimitris Romio, and Dimitris Manoliades. The robotic mapping survey was conducted by Prof. Stefan Williams, Dr. Oscar Pizarro, and Christian Lees from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, University of Sydney. U.S. National Parks Service underwater photographer Brett Seymour and archaeologist Dr. David Conlin volunteer their time and expertise.

The Return to Antikythera project is supervised by the Director of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities Dr. Aggeliki Simosi and is under the aegis of the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopios Pavlopoulos.

Academic event for the announcement of the results and findings of the excavation, as well as the future of the excavation

Upon completion of the first phase of the underwater excavation in Antikythera in 2014, the “Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation” hosts an academic event for the announcement of the results and findings of the excavation, as well as the future of the excavation.
An international team of scientists organized and implemented the “Return to Antikythera” Project in September and October 2014, headed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts, in collaboration with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, with the support of the “Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation” and other significant institutions.
The “Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation” supported the project throughout its duration, by putting the ship “GLAROS” at the disposal of the team for accommodation as well as logistical support on site; by aiding the research team wholeheartedly in preparing and carrying out the actual research and excavation.
The “Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation” will host an academic event on Wednesday, 10 December 2014, at 19.00 at its premises (36 2nd Merarchias St & Aktis Moutsopoulou, Piraeus), in order to present the results and findings of the excavation both to the academic community and to the public. The event will be broadcasted via live streaming on the Foundation’s website.
Addresses by:
  • Mr. Constantine Tasoulas, Minister of Culture and Sports
  • Mr. Efstratios Charchalakis, Mayor of Kythera and Antikythera
  • Mr. Mathias Buttet, R & D Director of Hublot.
The following speakers will present the history, results and future plans of the research:
  • Panagiotis C. Laskaridis, President of the “Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation”
  • Aggeliki Simosi, Director of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities
  • Theotokis Theodoulou, Maritime archaeologist in the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.
  • Brendan Foley, Co-Director of the field project. Research Specialist in the Deep Submergence Laboratory of WHOI’s Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering.
Our main aim is to incorporate the project’s results in the “Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation”’s educational programmes as well as in our publishing activity. Already the educational programmes of the Foundation include a programme on “The Antikythera Mechanism: Astronomy and Technology in Ancient Greece”, addressed to high school students.
The Antikythera Shipwreck, dating around 60 BC, is the richest ancient shipwreck to date and it was first discovered by Symian sponge divers in 1900. A host of impressive artifacts was recovered from the shipwreck, including the extraordinary Antikythera Mechanism, the oldest “computer”. Upon the finding of such treasures, global attention turned to Antikythera, fueling great expectations for new and exciting discoveries on the shipwreck site.
For further information on the event, please contact the “Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation”, tel.: 210 42 97 540, e-mail: info@laskaridou.gr

Stunning Finds from Ancient Greek Shipwreck – New Antikythera Discoveries Prove Luxury Cargo Survives

Section of a bronze spear recovered that would have belonged to a larger-than-life size statue.
Section of a bronze spear recovered that would have belonged to a larger-than-life size statue.

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 tableware, ship components, and a giant bronze spear that would have belonged to a life-sized warrior statue.

The Antikythera wreck was first discovered in 1900 by sponge divers who were blown off course by a storm. They subsequently recovered a spectacular haul of ancient treasure including bronze and marble statues, jewellery, furniture, luxury glassware, and the surprisingly complex Antikythera Mechanism. But they were forced to end their mission at the 55-meter-deep site after one diver died of the bends and two were paralyzed. Ever since, archaeologists have wondered if more treasure remains buried beneath the sea bed.

Now a team of international archaeologists including Brendan Foley of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Theotokis Theodoulou of the Hellenic Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities have returned to the treacherous site using state-of-the-art technology. During their first excavation season, from September 15 to October 7, 2014, the researchers have created a high-resolution, 3D map of the site using stereo cameras mounted on an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). Divers then recovered a series of finds which 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 much of the ship survives. The finds are also scattered over a much larger area than the sponge divers realized, covering 300 meters of the seafloor. This together with the huge size of the anchors and recovered hull planks proves that the Antikythera ship was much larger than previously thought, perhaps up to 50 meters long.

“The evidence shows 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, a 2-meter-long bronze spear buried just beneath the surface of the sand. Too large and heavy to have been used as a weapon, 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 the sponge divers, so these could have formed part of a complex of statues involving a warrior in a chariot that was pulled by the four horses.

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 stands 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 using 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 allowed 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.”

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit www.whoi.edu.