Archaeologists haul more treasure from famous Antikythera shipwreck

It’s apparently a good time to be a classicist, because besides the rare tomb recently found in Pompeii and the underwater fortified city found off of a Greek beach, marine archaeologists have just recovered more than 50 items off of the famous Greek Antikythera shipwreck.

This isn’t the first time this shipwreck has made headlines—it was first discovered in 1900, and is thought to be the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered. So large, in fact, that excavations are still ongoing, and continue to bring up objects of immense rarity.

As announced by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, most recently archaeologists have recovered a bronze armrest, which may have been part of a throne; the remains of a bone flute; fine glassware; luxury ceramics, whose contents will undergo DNA analysis to determine what was inside; a glass pawn from an ancient board game; and several components of the ship itself, including remains of the hull.

“This shipwreck is far from exhausted,” reports project co-Director Dr. Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). “Every single dive on it delivers fabulous finds, and reveals how the ‘1 percent’ lived in the time of Caesar.”

The best is yet to come with this shipwreck

The shipwreck is thought to have occurred around 65 BCE, 20 years before Caesar would come to a pointy end. Previous finds from Antikythera include 36 marble statues depicting mythical heroes and gods, various bronze sculptures, the skeletal remains of the crew and passengers, and—most famously—the Antikythera mechanism.

The mechanism is considered the world’s oldest computer, dating back to around 205 BCE. (Take that, relatives who claim to be too old to use an iPhone!) One (unconfirmed) belief is that the mechanism was created by Archimedes, and was carried off to Rome after the general Marcellus conquered Syracuse. What happened after is even more unknown, until it ended up onboard a ship that sank off of the island of Antikythera some 150 years later.

The current excavation of the ship is expected to continue for several more years. Already, the team has a better understanding of the wreck than anyone else before, thanks to improved technology and cooperative weather. While at the wreck, the team completed a metal detection survey, and discovered metal objects spread out over an area of about 120 by 150 feet—meaning much more is yet to come.


Feature Image: Brett Seymour, EUA/ARGO