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Antikythera shipwreck yields remarkable artifacts

Photo: Brett Seymour
Photo: Brett Seymour

Researchers have discovered several extraordinary items at the Antikythera shipwreck site in Greece, including bronze statue pieces and a mystery disc decorated with a bull.

The statue pieces, notably a bronze arm and two marble feet attached to a plinth, were found lodged under massive boulders, leading the international team to believe that at least seven life-size statues could be hidden nearby – something that would be considered a unique find from the time period.

This is an indication that the missing six bronze sculptures represented in the National Archaeological Museum by pieces recovered in the original 1901 salvage operation, are surely waiting for us to find them”, says Lund University marine archaeologist Brendan Foley, who co-led the excavation with Theotokis Theodoulou of the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities.

Photo: Brett Seymour
Photo: Brett Seymour

Over 2,000 years ago, the large Roman ship sank in the Aegean Sea, scattering its cargo across the seafloor. Since the discovery of the wreck by sponge divers in 1900, a stunning range of artifacts have been discovered, including bronze and marble statues, jewellery, pottery, and the famous Antikythera Mechanism; dubbed the world’s oldest known computer.

Last year, the researchers discovered a human skeleton so well-preserved it could lead to DNA recovery.

In addition to the statue pieces, the team also unearthed a curious bronze object. At first, they hoped it could be the missing gear from the Antikythera mechanism. Instead, X-ray images revealed the relief of a bull on the surface. The item will now undergo further investigation.

A mystery bronze disc was also discovered (Photo: Brett Seymour)
A mystery bronze disc was also discovered (Photo: Brett Seymour)

Other findings from the operation include more human remains as well as planks and frames from the wooden hull structure, which provide further evidence relating to the size and type of vessel.

The team plan to return to Antikythera in May 2018 for another major excavation that will include breaking up the boulders - to see what could be buried beneath.

Read more: Antikythera shipwreck yields statue pieces and mystery bronze disc

About the excavation:
The dive team: Dr. Brendan Foley, Dr. Theotokis Theodoulou, Dr. Dimitris Kourkoumelis, Dr. Alexander Tourtas, Phillip Short, Gemma Smith, Alexandros Sotiriou, Nikolas Giannoulakis, Evan Kovacs, Brett Seymour. Support team included Michalis Kelaidis, Dimitris Romios, and Paolo Iglic.

The dive team

Brendan Foley
brendan [dot] foley [at] ark [dot] lu [dot] se