Mysterious disk found in Ancient Greek Antikythera shipwreck (video)

Α Decrease font Enlarge font
Mysterious disk found in Ancient Greek Antikythera shipwreck (video)Perhaps one of the most significant finds came when archaeologists found ancient human remains at the site

Bronze limbs, a sarcophagus lid, marble statue pieces, and a mysterious bronze disk were among the remains located during excavations of one of the world’s most ancient—and famous—shipwrecks, according to the following report by the Greek Observer.

While the statues would likely have been evaluated as high art in their day, perhaps the most intriguing artifact found is a small, bronze disk. Punctuated with holes and decorated with the image of a bull, it’s unclear what the disk was used for, said Simossi.

“It is maybe decoration for furniture or maybe a seal, or it could be an instrument,” Simossi hinted. “It is very early to say.”

It’s also reminiscent of the Antikythera mechanism, a small, bronze disk that measures celestial movements with astonishing accuracy. That piece was found among the ship’s remains in 2006. The mechanism is so accurate, in fact, that it’s often referred to as an “ancient computer.”

Greece’s Division of Underwater Antiquities—a government agency that’s part of the country’s ministry of archaeology—announced their discoveries Wednesday after several weeks of excavations, which lasted from September 4 to 20. Located just off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera 180 feet below the sea, the so-called Antikythera shipwreck can yield insights into Roman culture during its heyday.

“[Marine archaeologists] have found a very big treasure of statues of marble and bronze and other items,” noted expedition co-leader Aggeliki Simossi.

According to her, the first century B.C. merchant ship would have been bound for Rome, where wealthy members of Roman society decorated their villas with Grecian art. Large for its time, the ship measured roughly 130 feet long, meaning a large stash of artifacts was on board when it set sail for Italy.

Footage shot during the excavation shows the archaeologists pulling a realistic sculpture fragment of an arm from the elbow to the fingers. The open tilt of some of the statues’ hands, with fingers seeming to gesture up and outward, suggest they were modeled after philosophers.

More excavations during 2018

The team of archaeologists, co-led by Simossi and archaeologist Brendan Foley from Lund University in Sweden, will continue studying the remains of this year’s haul, before returning to the shipwreck site by May of 2018 for more excavations.

While Simossi stressed this year’s field work yielded a bigger haul than previous years, the Antikythera shipwreck has been the archaeological gift that keeps on giving. It was first discovered in 1900 by sponge divers, who spotted limbs from bronze statues.

The “orphan” limbs, as they’re called by archaeologists, suggested early on that more treasure was waiting to be discovered. Famous French marine explorer Jacques Cousteau excavated the ruins in 1976, finding additional statues and some smaller artifacts.

While the site has been well known for over 100 years, excavations have been intermittent since Cousteau’s trip in the 1970s. Foley’s focus on the region in 2014 renewed archaeological interest. Perhaps one of the most significant finds came during September of last year, when archaeologists found human remains at the site. It was the first opportunity to examine 2,000-year-old DNA from the wreck, which may provide more data about its history. The DNA is still being analyzed but initial work suggests it was likely a young male.

Discussing the find in 2016 with Nature, Foley argued that the ship sank suddenly and from natural conditions—most likely a storm.

According to Simossi, the wreck contains the most cargo of any known ship remains in the Mediterranean Sea. The slow, painstaking work of combing through the wreckage means more discoveries are possible there.

More background about the shipwreck

Around Easter 1900, Captain Dimitrios Kondos and his crew of sponge divers from Symi sailed through the Aegean en route to fishing grounds off North Africa. They stopped at the Greek island of Antikythera to wait for favorable winds. During the layover, they began diving off the island's coast wearing the standard diving dresses — canvas suits and copper helmets – of the time.

Diver Elias Stadiatis descended to 45 meters depth, then quickly signaled to be pulled to the surface. He described a seafloor horror show: a heap of rotting corpses and horses strewn among the rocks. Thinking the diver was drunk from the nitrogen in his breathing mix at that depth, Kondos himself donned the diving gear, and soon returned to the surface with the arm of a bronze statue. Shortly thereafter, the men departed as planned to fish for sponges, but at the end of the season they returned to Antikythera and retrieved several artifacts from the wreck. Kondos reported the finds to authorities in Athens, and quickly Hellenic Navy vessels were sent to support the salvage effort from November 1900 through 1901.

Artifact recovery

Together with the Greek Education Ministry and the Royal Hellenic Navy, the sponge divers salvaged numerous artifacts from the waters. By the middle of 1901, divers had recovered bronze statues named "The Philosopher", the Youth of Antikythera (Ephebe) of c. 340 BC, and thirty-six marble sculptures including "Hercules", Ulysses, Diomedes, Hermes, Apollo, three marble statues of horses (a fourth was dropped during recovery, and is lost on the sea floor), a bronze lyre, and several pieces of glasswork. Ship's equipment included lead scupper pipes and hull sheeting, and a set of four massive lead sounding weights (up to 14 kg). These are the only sounding weights ever discovered on an ancient shipwreck in the Aegean, though comparable examples have been recovered along the Levantine coast. Many other small and common artifacts were also found, and the entire assemblage was taken to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. The death of diver Giorgos Kritikos and the paralysis of two others due to decompression sickness put an end to work at the site during the summer of 1901.

On 17 May 1902, archaeologist Valerios Stais made the most celebrated find while studying the artefacts at the National Archaeological Museum. He noticed that a severely corroded piece of bronze had a gear wheel embedded in it and legible inscriptions in Greek. The object would come to be known as the Antikythera Mechanism. Originally thought to be one of the first forms of a mechanised clock or an astrolabe, it is at times referred to as the world’s oldest known analog computer.

The wreck remained untouched until 1953 when French naval officer and explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau visited briefly to relocate the site. Cousteau returned with a full team in the summer and autumn of 1976 at the invitation of the Greek Government. Under the direction of archaeologist Dr. Lazaros Kolonas, the team recovered nearly 300 artifacts, including four hull planks, ceramic jars, bronze and silver coins, pieces of bronze and marble sculptures, bronze statuettes, several pieces of gold jewelry, and even human remains of the crew and passengers.

Although the retrieval of artifacts from the shipwreck was highly successful and accomplished within two years, dating the site proved difficult and took much longer. Based on related works with known provenances, the bronze statues could be dated back to the 4th century BC, while the marble statues were suggested to be Hellenistic-era copies of earlier works.

The philosopher's head

Some scholars have speculated that the ship was carrying part of the loot of the Roman General Sulla from Athens in 86 BC, and might have been on its way to Italy. A reference by the Greek writer, Lucian, to one of Sulla's ships sinking in the Antikythera region gave rise to this theory. Supporting an early 1st-century BC date were domestic utensils and objects from the ship, similar to those known from other 1st-century BC contexts. The amphorae recovered from the wreck indicated a date of 80–70 BC, the Hellenistic pottery a date of 75–50 BC, and the Roman ceramics were similar to known mid-1st century types. However, any possible association with Sulla was eliminated when the coins discovered in the 1970s during work by Jacques Cousteau and associates were dated between 76 and 67 BC. Nevertheless, it is possible that the sunken cargo ship was en route to Rome or elsewhere in Italy with looted treasures to support a triumphal parade. Alternatively, perhaps the cargo was assembled on commission from a wealthy Roman patron.

Remains of hull planks showed that the ship was made of elm, a wood often used by the Romans in their ships. Eventually in 1964 a sample of the hull planking was carbon dated, and delivered a calibrated calendar date of 220 BC ± 43 years. The disparity in the calibrated radiocarbon date and the expected date based on the ceramics and coins was explained by the sample plank originating from an old tree cut much earlier than the ship's sinking event.

Further evidence for an early 1st-century BC sinking date came in 1974, when Yale University Professor Derek de Solla Price published his interpretation of the Antikythera mechanism. He argued that the object was a calendar computer. From gear settings and inscriptions on the mechanism's faces, he concluded that the mechanism was made about 87 BC and lost only a few years later.

New expeditions

In 2012, marine archeologist Brendan P. Foley of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the United States received permission from the Greek Government to conduct new dives around the entire island of Antikythera. With project co-director Dr. Theotokis Theodoulou, the divers began a preliminary three-week survey in October 2012 using rebreather technology, to allow for extended dives down to a depth of 70 metres (230 ft), allowing a fuller, complete survey of the site. The team completed an underwater circumnavigation of the island, documented several isolated finds, relocated the Antikythera Wreck, and identified a second ancient shipwreck a few hundred meters south of the Antikythera Wreck.

The Hellenic Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have continued investigations at Antikythera. In 2014 and 2015 they conducted robotic mapping surveys over the two ancient wreck sites, cooperating with the Australian Centre for Field Robotics of the University of Sydney. Subsequent excavations of the Antikythera Wreck in 2014-2016 delivered new finds from the ship itself: wood elements from the hull or decks, components of two anchors made of lead, an enormous lead salvage ring, lead hull sheeting, several bronze nails and spikes, and a bronze rigging ring. The wreck also relinquished many luxury goods including two large bronze spears from statues, the left hand of a marble statue, ornate glass bowls, intact ceramic jars of several different styles, and a gold ring very similar to the example recovered in 1976. One extraordinary find is an ancient weapon known as a dolphin, a 100 kilograms (220 lb) lead bulb tipped with an iron spike, intended to be dropped from the ship’s yardarm through the deck and hull of an attacking vessel. This is the only example of a war dolphin ever discovered. On 31 August 2016, a 2000-year old human skeleton nicknamed Pamphilos was discovered at the shipwreck. A new mission and excavation on September 2017 result in the recovery of a bronze arm together with other fragments of bronze and marble statues and the location of significant fragments of the skeleton and planking of part of the ship.

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinations Greek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright: Marcus Cyron License: CC-BY-SA

 

Tornos
  1. 26/05 23:03

    Greek cruise operator Celestyal Cruises stops all voyages until July 30

  2. 26/05 22:34

    Cyprus ends 14-day coronavirus quarantine in tourism re-opening

  3. 26/05 22:08

    CNN joins World Tourism Organization on #traveltomorrow campaign

  4. 26/05 21:41

    Discover “Lovers’ Cave” only 36km from the centre of Athens

  5. 26/05 21:15

    International Air Transport Association chief at media briefing on COVID-19

  6. 26/05 20:15

    Greece's Piraeus becomes top container port in entire Mediterranean

  7. 26/05 19:23

    Greece records ten new coronavirus cases throughout the country

  8. 26/05 19:06

    Greek PM to Bild: We will open tourism to countries with similar Covid-19 data

  9. 26/05 18:56

    Survey: One in three Greeks will always carry antiseptic from now on

  10. 26/05 16:37

    US airline shows strong interest in more flights to Greece

  11. 26/05 15:49

    Grecotel hotel chain sends message of optimism for tourism this summer

  12. 26/05 15:30

    FM: Greece has proved that it can protect our borders, the borders of Europe

  13. 26/05 12:55

    Deutsche Welle: Germany prepares to open up to 31 European countries on 15 June

  14. 25/05 23:04

    Admire rare “horseshoe cloud” from the sky of Crete

  15. 25/05 22:10

    AP: Repatriated Cypriots cause rise in coronavirus cases after lockdown eases

  16. 25/05 22:04

    Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism Scholarship available by Faith

  17. 25/05 21:10

    Greek Minister: 'We don't want a summer without culture'

  18. 25/05 20:41

    Weather to change with rain, winds and hail in Greece till end of the week

  19. 25/05 20:29

    UNWTO President issues special message to celebrate Africa Day on May 25

  20. 25/05 20:28

    MIT Professor interview: Greece on good coronavirus recovery path

  21. 25/05 19:48

    Greek islands and ferries open and ready for big first wave of tourists in Greece

  22. 25/05 18:02

    Greek PM: Results in tourism will be better than expected

  23. 25/05 17:44

    Greek Finance Minιster: 'We are not discussing cuts to wages and pensions'

  24. 25/05 16:10

    German airline Lufthansa to resume flights to Greece in mid-June

  25. 25/05 15:59

    AP: German government fund greenlights €9 billion in aid to Lufthansa

  26. 25/05 15:13

    Transport Minister: Thessaloniki metro will delivered in 2023 according to schedule

  27. 25/05 13:33

    Five exotic Greek beaches with crystal clear waters

  28. 25/05 13:11

    Social distancing and masks recommended as Cyprus relaxes coronavirus restrictions

  29. 25/05 11:19

    Primary schools and kindergartens to reopen in Greece on June 1st

  30. 24/05 14:11

    Day-care centers for the elderly and disabled children to reopen in Greece on Monday

  31. 24/05 14:06

    Athens City plan to ban traffic over the summer and give center to pedestrians

  32. 24/05 13:48

    Three new cases of the coronavirus in Greece during last 24 hours

  33. 24/05 13:30

    Travelling to all Greek islands resumes on Monday

  34. 24/05 11:13

    Cafes, restaurants open for business in Athens on Monday

  35. 23/05 14:05

    Minister: Number of migrants on islands decreases by 15% in Greece after initiatives

  36. 23/05 14:00

    Greek travel receipts fell by 71% in March

  37. 23/05 13:54

    European Aviation Safety Agency guidelines welcomed by airline industry

  38. 23/05 13:50

    Greek and Israeli Presidents assure they will continue working closely together

  39. 23/05 13:45

    Moody's report: Covid-19 a temporary shock for the Greek economy

  40. 23/05 13:41

    Airports Council International and IATA present roadmap for aviation industry restart

  41. 23/05 13:37

    Passenger traffic at Greek airports dropped 99% in April due to coronavirus

  42. 23/05 13:33

    Greek government announces plan to boost the economy and labor

  43. 23/05 13:23

    International Air Transport Association Board declares principles for sector re-start

  44. 23/05 11:12

    Ministry of Tourism announces directions for reopening Greek hotels and campings

  45. 22/05 14:07

    Greek Finance Minister content with 6th Enhanced Surveillance Report on Greece

  46. 22/05 13:04

    Greek PM: We won the battle for health and we will win the battle for the economy

  47. 22/05 11:46

    Greek Minister: No worry about reopening to tourism

  48. 22/05 11:14

    Greek Prime Minister: We will not leave the people of art unprotected

  49. 22/05 11:01

    Minister: Greek government aims at bridge program for social cohesion

  50. 21/05 21:20

    Greek capital of Athens to get a drive-in cinema again

  51. 21/05 20:10

    Greece ranks 2nd in the world in “Blue Flags” (video)

  52. 21/05 19:54

    Greek Prime Minister announces €24 billion package to restart economy (video)

  53. 21/05 19:28

    Greece continues weekly relaxation of coronavirus lockdown measures

  54. 21/05 19:08

    Greek tourism bodies: Measures for sector in right direction, more will be required

  55. 21/05 18:07

    Greek Tourism Minister: No mandatory tests throughout Greece for visitors from abroad

  56. 21/05 17:13

    EU awards to Greek cities of Karditsa and Rethymno for safe walking and cycling

  57. 21/05 17:05

    Greek Minister: Government working on a plan to help Aegean Airlines

  58. 21/05 16:40

    Bank of Greece: ECB bought €3.3 billion in bonds in secondary market

  59. 21/05 15:22

    Transport Minister: Athens metro line 3 to reach suburb of Nikea in early July

  60. 21/05 14:22

    Greek hoteliers' head: Measures announced by government first step for restarting tourism sector

  61. 21/05 13:18

    PM: Greece is even better for investment now than it was five months ago

  62. 21/05 12:17

    Global media focus on Greece fully opening tourism season

  63. 20/05 21:10

    International Air Transport Association presents layered approach for sector re-start

  64. 20/05 16:45

    European Council approves SURE Program to boost employment

  65. 20/05 16:38

    Greek Orthodox Diaspora schools to test new language learning platform

  66. 20/05 16:33

    Greek PM to announce Big Deal to revive Greece’s COVID-19 hit economy

  67. 20/05 15:43

    Cyprus says travel agents reluctant customers for COVID-19 cancellations

  68. 20/05 15:25

    Daily Mail: UK tourists regain hope for summer vacations in Greece

  69. 20/05 15:20

    FM: Greece wants to convert coronavirus crisis success into gains for tourism

  70. 20/05 15:05

    Greek PM to announce government's plan for labour, economy and tourism

  71. 20/05 14:55

    Greece waives 14-day quarantine period for visitors from the United Kingdom

  72. 20/05 14:45

    Development and Investments Ministry creates liquidity observatory in Greece

  73. 20/05 14:37

    Religious Tourism: Coronavirus will change communion rituals for many US Christians

  74. 20/05 14:33

    Sharp temperature fall and rain in parts of Greece on Thursday

  75. 20/05 14:15

    AP: “Moderate“ pickup in air travel demand and fewer cancellations

  76. 20/05 13:43

    Mixed picture for Greek wine exports during 2019

  77. 20/05 13:28

    KAS decision sets maximum height for buildings in the Athens Acropolis area

  78. 20/05 12:12

    TUI: Rise in demand for vacations in Greece

  79. 20/05 11:10

    The Greek island of Patmos prepares for return of tourism this summer

  80. 19/05 23:34

    Eurobank reveals plan to support Greece's tourism industry

  81. 19/05 23:29

    Message of unity and solidarity from 2nd Thessaloniki Foreign Ministerial Summit

  82. 19/05 23:23

    Greece's Aegean airline seeks bailout from coronavirus hit

  83. 19/05 22:37

    SNFestival: RetroFuture | What’s on | Online on June 21-28

  84. 19/05 22:28

    Pontian Evzones change presidential guard in Athens on Pontian Genocide Day (video)

  85. 19/05 22:21

    Paphos hotels in Cyprus rely on UK tourists post coronavirus return

  86. 19/05 22:08

    Prime Minister ready to announce Greece’s post-COVID-19 recovery plan

  87. 19/05 21:44

    Only four new cases and no deaths from Covid-19 in Greece today

  88. 19/05 19:29

    KLM to resume flights to Greece on June 6

  89. 19/05 18:17

    Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia hold Summit on border tourism and transport

  90. 19/05 16:44

    Spokesperson Petsas: Greek government's tourism plan will be coherent

  91. 19/05 15:15

    Minister: Measures at organized beaches will soon become more flexible

  92. 19/05 14:45

    Greek PM: We will honour Pontian Genocide Remembrance Day until vindication

  93. 19/05 13:02

    Temperatures break 160-year high record in Athens during weekend

  94. 19/05 11:51

    ABC news report: Greece is beating the coronavirus

  95. 18/05 18:09

    Port Jefferson AHEPA Chapter 319 offers masks and gloves to Church community

  96. 18/05 18:00

    Government: Greece has taken 'significant steps' toward the new normality

  97. 18/05 17:55

    Los Angeles Greek Film Festival 2020 postponed until October

  98. 18/05 17:17

    Greek Prime Minister: We did it, but care and caution are still required

  99. 18/05 17:11

    AP: District of luxury boutiques in Milan reopened as of Monday

  100. 18/05 17:04

    Shopping malls, discount and outlet villages to open for business in Greece on Monday