Please select your home edition
Edition
Lancer Lasts Longer

Antikythera divers uncover ancient array of artifacts

by Jo Marchant on 25 Mar 2013
Theotokis Theodoulou examines the ship’s lead anchor stock, about 1.4 metres long and weighing close to 200kg. It is now being restored by the Ephorate, before being added to the Antikythera Shipwreck exhibition Alexandros Sotiriou/HEUA/WHOI
Divers returning to the site of ancient wreckage off the Greek island of Antikythera have found artifacts dispersed over a wide area of the steep, rocky sea floor. These include intact pottery, the ship's anchor and some puzzling bronze objects. The team believes that hundreds more items could be buried in the sediment nearby.

The Antikythera wreck, which dates from the first century BC, yielded a glittering haul when sponge divers discovered it at the beginning of the 20th century. Among jewellery, weapons and statues were the remains of a mysterious clockwork device, dubbed the Antikythera mechanism.

Bar a brief visit by the undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau in the 1970s (featured in his documentary Diving for Roman Plunder), no one had visited the wreck since, leading to speculation about what treasures might still be down there. The locals told tales of giant marble statues lying beyond the sponge divers' reach, while ancient technology geeks like me wondered whether the site might be hiding another Antikythera mechanism, or at least some clues as to whom this mysterious object belonged to.

Cue all-round excitement when in October last year, a team of divers led by Brendan Foley of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Aggeliki Simossi of Greece's Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, went back for a proper look. The divers used James Bond-style propulsion vehicles equipped with high-resolution video cameras to circumnavigate the island at about 40 metres depth. Now the photos released by the team show some of what they found.

For centuries Antikythera was in a busy shipping lane, but surprisingly its treacherous underwater cliffs and reefs are not littered with sunken ships (perhaps those ancient navigators were more skilled than we thought). And there are no obvious signs of a wreck at the site supposedly excavated by Cousteau, suggesting that he recovered all of the visible items there – or that he planted some of his finds for the cameras.

But 200 metres away, the divers found artefacts spread across the rocky sea floor, on a steep slope between 35 and 60 metres deep.

The largest item recovered was a huge lead anchor stock. It was lying on a semicircular object that might be a scupper pipe, used to drain water from the ship's deck. If so, the ship may have gone down as she was sailing with the anchor stowed. The team also raised an intact storage jar (amphora), which matches those previously recovered from the wreck. DNA tests may reveal its original contents.

Most intriguing are dozens of irregular spherical objects sprinkled across the wreck site. They look like rocks but contain flecks of green, suggesting small bronze fragments, corroded and encrusted in sediment after thousands of years in the sea. This is just what the Antikythera mechanism looked like when it was discovered. Then again, they could be collections of ship's nails.

Because the artefacts the team found are a short distance from the site investigated by Cousteau, it's possible that they belong to a second ship from around the same date as the original wreck, perhaps part of the same fleet. But Foley thinks it more likely that all of the remains come from one vessel that broke up as it sank.

To read the full story, click here.
Harken and Fosters -  Harken WinchesNaiad/Oracle SupplierGuy Nowell - Blue 660

Related Articles

Reef sharks take small bites
Coral reef sharks eat prey that are smaller than a cheeseburger Sharks have a reputation for having voracious appetites, but a new study shows that most coral reef sharks eat prey that are smaller than a cheeseburger
Posted on 20 Mar
Suburbs to Sea - Stopping litter at the source
Over sixty people gathered at Point Cook Community Centre for a special ‘Movies and Muffins’ night to learn about litter Over sixty people gathered at Point Cook Community Centre recently for a special ‘Movies and Muffins’ night to learn about litter and its impact on the environment as part of Wyndham City’s Green Living Series.
Posted on 18 Mar
Good radio communication tips - Video
Good communications could make all the difference in an emergency at sea. Here's some great basic communication tips Good communications could make all the difference in an emergency at sea. Here's some great basic communication tips from Scott Walker and Mal Williams from Outdoors Group.
Posted on 10 Mar
We can fix the Great Barrier Reef
Leading coral reef scientists say Australia could restore Great Barrier Reef to its former glory through better policies Leading coral reef scientists say Australia could restore the Great Barrier Reef to its former glory through better policies that focus on science, protection and conservation.
Posted on 20 Feb
Great Barrier Reef marine reserves combat coral disease
A new and significant role for marine reserves on the Great Barrier Reef has been revealed A new and significant role for marine reserves on the Great Barrier Reef has been revealed, with researchers finding the reserves reduce the prevalence of coral diseases.
Posted on 20 Feb
Powerboat noise gives marine predators a deadly advantage
A pioneering new study shows the rate fish are captured by predators can double when boats are motoring nearby. A pioneering new study shows the rate fish are captured by predators can double when boats are motoring nearby.
Posted on 8 Feb
More recreational boaties wearing lifejackets
In good news for boating safety, more recreational boaties are wearing lifejackets the entire time they are on the water In good news for boating safety, more recreational boaties are wearing lifejackets the entire time they are on the water. Maritime New Zealand has released new research into recreational boating behaviour that shows in 2015 78 per cent of recreational boaties reported wearing a lifejacket the entire time they were on the water. This is up from 67 per cent in 2014, and 62 per cent in 2013.
Posted on 13 Jan
Eco-warriors Sea-Bin crowd sharing critical stage with nine days to go
The automated marina cleaning SeaBin project has raised 86% of their target with 9 days left. The automated marina cleaning SeaBin project has raised $198,020 of $230,000.00 with nine days left on their Indiegogo crowdfunding platform, but they need more help now.
Posted on 29 Dec 2015
Wellington boatie placed under 'house-arrest'
A boatie who had bought a “tired” yacht for just $500 online has had the vessel restricted to use on Wellington harbour A boatie who had bought a “tired” yacht for just $500 online has had the vessel restricted to use on Wellington harbour after threatening to sail to Westport without an engine, radio or safety equipment. Another online shopper did the right thing in buying an emergency beacon (EPIRB - emergency position-indicating radio beacon) before heading out in his boat.
Posted on 22 Dec 2015
New guidelines published for the servicing of inflatable lifejackets
Some inflatable lifejackets failed because they had not been serviced, and boaties were getting unclear information Concerns that some inflatable lifejackets failed because they had not been serviced, and boaties were getting unclear information, have led to new, national guidelines for safer use of inflatable lifejackets. The guidelines were developed by a nation-wide industry group representing manufacturers, importers, retailers, boating organisations and others
Posted on 14 Dec 2015