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:

Excavation Continues

The amazing weather window continues and team in logging one of the most productive field season yet. Typical dive rotations include staggered archeologists / guardians who have a bottom time between 40 and 70 minutes with a total run time of 2 to 3 hours. In addition an imaging team jumps between the rotations capturing both still and 4K video.

The team briefing outlining dive teams, objectives, safety issues and planned run time occurs every day. (Photo by Brett Seymour EUA / ARGO NGO)
Dr. Theotokis Theodhoulou conducts his pre-dive checks before entering the water. (Photo by Michael Tsimperopoulos, EUA / AGO NGO)
Paolo Iglic hands a bail-out cylinder to Alexandros Sotiriou. (Photo by Brett Seymour, EUA / ARGO NGO)
Gemma Smith descends with the cliff face of Antikythera in the background.(Photo by Brett Seymour, EUA / ARGO NGO)
Evan Kovacs documents the excavation. (Photo by Brett Seymour, EUA / ARGO NGO)
Excavation among the rock sea bottom. (Photo by Brett Seymour, EUA / ARGO NGO)
Dr Brendan Foley and Gemma Smith excavate a sand pocket on the site.(Photo by Brett Seymour, EUA / ARGO NGO)

Understanding a 2000 Year Old Shipwreck

The diving continues at Antikythera. We have had a run of exceptional weather with light winds from the west which allows the team to access the site under the protection of the island. Todays dives were focused on continued test excavations in known areas of the site that have yielded either diagnostic finds or metal detector signals. In addition, divers and archeologists worked to delineate the extent of the wreck site with the use of specially engineered metal detector capable of penetrating deep into the sediment or under rocks. Each “hit” is recorded on the GIS based high resolution map generated in 2014 with the use of a subsea tablet and will be investigated on subsequent dives. This growing database of artifacts, site diagnostics and surveyed areas aid the archeologists in understanding the position of the wreck and the 2000 year plus site formation process.

Upon completing the diving rotations the team was met back in Potamos Harbor by project supporters aboard the familiar M/V GLAROS. Those aboard included Panos Laskaridis and Dr. Ageliki Simosi, Director of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities.

The commute to work: waiting on the surface for the signal that the excavation pump is ready for the divers. (Photo by Brett Seymour EUA / ARGO NGO)
Alexandros Sotiriou metal detects over the steep slope. The one-of-a-kind detector built specifically to Alexandros’ specifications can “see” through more than two meters of rock to detect buried objects. (Photo by Brett Seymour EUA / ARGO NGO)
While Alexandros Sotiriou conducts the metal detector survey, each detector “hit” is entered into the GIS based site map via the underwater tablet by Dr Alex Tortuas. (Photo by Brett Seymour EUA / ARGO NGO)
Arrival of friends aboard M/V GLAROS (Seagull): Panos Laskaridis and Dr. Ageliki Simosi, Director of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities. (Photo by Brett Seymour EUA / ARGO NGO)
Dr. Brendan Foley, with appropriate field beard, discusses plans with Dr. Ageliki Simosi. (Photo by Brett Seymour EUA / ARGO NGO)
Discussion of the campaign’s successes, in a convivial setting aboard the yacht. (Photo by Brett Seymour EUA / ARGO NGO)

 

Descent to Antikythera

Underwater visibility on the site has been astounding. (Photo by Brett Seymour EUA / Lund University / ARGO NGO)
Divers descend down the slope of Antikytera to the  56m / 180ft depth of the site. Notice the two dive platforms in the image.. (Photo by Brett Seymour EUA / Lund University / ARGO NGO)
On site, the team excavated with dredge and occasionally by hand-fanning the sediments, with bright lights illuminating the scene. Here Dr. Brendan Foley and Dr Alex Tourtas excavate and record the location of the finds while Gemma Smith provides lighting and Evan Kovacs films the excavation. (Photo by Brett Seymour EUA / Lund University / ARGO NGO)
All finds recorded immediately by still and video camera, and entered into our GIS database via a tablet computer in an underwater housing. Here Dr. Alex Tourtas hovers over an area where pin flags have been placed based on metal detector readings. (Photo by Brett Seymour EUA / Lund University / ARGO NGO)

Staying Connected

Even though Antikythera is in a remote location, we remain connected to the rest of the world through the latest 4G technology.  Quality telecommunications are also vital for 3D modeling and remote data processing, interactive software support, firmware updates, cloud storage, and video conferencing with stakeholders around the world. Once again, COSMOTE has exceeded expectations in keeping us connected.

Remote & cloud-based data processing.
One of the 4G cellular towers in Antikythera.

Day One of the 2017 Expedition

Today was the first day of the 2017 expedition, one of the most physically demanding stages of the project. Around ten tonnes of equipment and supplies were unloaded and readied for usage. The team split into three, setting up the mess area for the next three weeks, building the gas station to fill SCUBA cylinders, unloading the dive boats and preparing dive equipment. There is only limited infrastructure on the island, meaning that almost everything has to be shipped in and set up each time.

Michalis Protopsaltis helped the team by providing a forklift and driver from Kythera to unload pallets from the ferry. We would have been in serious trouble without such a tool.
This entire truck load of equipment came from Athens and was loaded onto the ferry in Kythera.

Team members have been arriving from around the world, with; Theotokis Theodoulou,  Nikolas Giannoulakis,  Mihalis Kelaidis,  Phil Short and Gemma Smith making the transit from Chania to Antikythera aboard diving support vessel “Nikolas”.

The transit from Chania in Crete to Antikythera.

Alexander Sotiriou and Dimitrios Romios made the transit to Antikythera from Alimos on diving support vessel “Poseidon”, collecting John Fardoulis from Kythera on the way.

Diving support vessel “Poseidon” stopping off in Diakofti, Kythera on the way.

Brendan Foley, Alex Tourtas, Michael Tsimperopoulos, Paolo Iglic, Ilias Charalampous and Dimitra Kotsi arrived on the ferry from Neapolis, with four heavily laden vehicles and thirteen pallets of equipment and supplies.

The main job for tomorrow, day two, will be to finish assembling dive equipment and do shakedown dives, ideally heading to the wreck on Wednesday to do the rigging, before excavating can begin. Stay tuned for more…

Tonnes of equipment and supplies shipped in for the three-week duration of the expedition.
All hands required to help unload and set up.

Assembling rebreathers.
Boxes containing dry suits, and soft equipment need to be unpacked.
Photographic equipment, spare parts and more dive gear.
Dive cylinders to be filled.
Pumps and other excavation equipment.
Vans, SUVs & trailers transported to Antikythera for the 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.

A Day in the Life

To provide more insight into what it’s actually like during an expedition, the following is an example of what happens on a typical day of fieldwork during the Return to Antikythera project…

6.30am – Wake up

7am – Breakfast

Diving is physically demanding, so food is important for energy
Diving is physically demanding, so food is important for energy
Pre-dive paperwork...
Pre-dive paperwork…

 

7.30am – Load equipment into the vehicles & trailer, then move to the dock

Load the vehicles & trailer
Load the vehicles & trailer

 

8am – Load the boats
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8.15am – Dive briefing
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8.45am – Arrive at the wreck site and gear up
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9am  – 10am – Dive teams descend, with the sequence and timing of descents depending on the days plan

Bottom time is generally around 40 - 60 minutes on rebreathers and 20-30 minutes using open circuit SCUBA
Bottom time is generally around 40 – 60 minutes on rebreathers and 20-30 minutes using open circuit SCUBA

 

10am -11.30am – Decompression

Decompression time is generally 45-70 minutes, depending on bottom time
Decompression time is generally 45-70 minutes, depending on bottom time

 
Noon – 1pm – Ascend, then return to the harbour
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1.15pm – 2.15pm – Unload the boats, take equipment up to the dive ops centre and wash
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2.15pm – Lunch

 

3pm – 5pm showers and unwind

 

5pm-6.30pm prepare equipment for the next day’s diving
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Post dive paperwork
Post dive paperwork

 

8pm – Dinner

 

10pm – Bed time

 

Then repeat the next day…

Best of the Old and New

Modern science is helping us better understand the past, with new technologies and techniques complimenting standard archaeological methods in piecing together what actually happened 2000+ years ago. Much like how modern forensics help police with investigations.

DNA testing, 3D reconstruction and isotopic analysis are three different techniques used by the Return to Antikythera Project, which we’ll talk about in more detail shortly.

Artefacts are often fragile, so where possible a 3D model is constructed both in situ underwater and after an object has been recovered from the shipwreck.

Here’s a 3D model of a hand from a marble statue found during the spring fieldwork season.

This is an example of an artefact that is badly eroded, making it difficult to say what the rest of the statue looked like, hence the development of an initiative called 3D Antiquity.

The idea is to 3D-model thousands of ancient sculptures accurately and precisely, then compare them against the eroded and unrecognizable Antikythera marble statues, in the hope of identifying them.

We’d like to thank software vendor Autodesk for assisting the project with their ReMake software for 3D reconstructions.

The latest in diving technology also allows the team to work safer and for longer periods of time, which is important in such a difficult location.

Here’s a number of images from over the last week.
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Back at It!

The team is arriving in Antikythera from around the world at the moment, for the 2016 summer expedition on the shipwreck, which commences this week.

The MV Poseidon dive vessel stopped off briefly at Diakofti, Kythera en route this morning, to pick up Michel and Christine from Hublot who are spending time with the team in Antikythera.

Michel is one of the people responsible for bringing the Bubblot, underwater drone to life.

Alexander and Dimitris, having a 10 minute break in Kythera, before continuing the final leg of their maritime journey to Antikythera.
Alexander and Dimitris, having a 10 minute break in Kythera, before continuing the final leg of their maritime journey to Antikythera.
Michel, checking out another shipwreck on the way, the MV Nordland.
Michel, checking out another shipwreck on the way, the MV Nordland.
Next stop, Antikythera...
Next stop, Antikythera…

Here’s a brief video of MV Poseidon arriving at the dock.