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An 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 Brendan Foley, Theotokis Theodoulou and Alex Tourtas excavate the Antikythera Shipwreck skeletal remains, assisted by Nikolas Giannoulakis and Gemma Smith.
Credit: Photo by Brett Seymour, EUA/WHOI/ARGO
"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
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 the Antikythera Projectwebpage.
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
The project is supported by corporate partners Hublot,
Autodesk, Cosmote, Costa Navarino Resort and private sponsors Swordspoint
Foundation, Jane and James Orr, 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
September 19, 2016
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
An 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.
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Note: Content may be edited for style and
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