Return to Antikythera: Shipwreck divers unearth more than 50 new treasures

The Mail — Marine archaeologists have returned to the ancient shipwreck of Antikythera to learn more about its luxurious and extravagant artefacts.

During the latest dive experts spent a total of 40 hours on the sea bed to unearth more than 50 new treasures.

These include the remains of a bone flute, a pawn from an ancient board game, fine glassware and a bronze armrest believed to have been part of a throne.

During the latest dive experts spent a total of 40 hours on the sea bed to unearth more than 50 new treasures. These included the remains of a bone flute, a pawn from an ancient board game, fine glassware and a bronze armrest believed to have been part of a throne.

The shipwreck dates to circa 65 BC and was discovered by Greek fishermen in 1900 off the southwestern Aegean island of Antikythera.

A year later, four giant marble horses were discovered on the wreck by sponge divers and it is thought these formed part of a complex of statues involving a warrior in a chariot that was pulled by the horses.

In total, divers salvaged 36 marble statues of mythological heroes and gods, a life-sized bronze statue of an athlete, scores of luxury items and the skeletal remains of crew and passengers.

They also found fragments of the world’s first computer called the Antikythera Mechanism – a geared mechanical device that encoded the movements of the planets and stars, and predicted eclipses.

The highly complex mechanism, consisting of up to 40 bronze cogs and gears, was used by the ancient Greeks to track the cycles of the solar system.

It was so advanced, it took another 1,500 years for an astrological clock of similar sophistication to be made in Europe.

Last year, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) launched a long-term research program at the site with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports to excavate the wreck.

At the time, the researchers created a high-resolution, 3D map of the site using stereo cameras mounted on an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).

This map covers a staggering 113,020 square feet (10,500 square metres) of sea floor.

This year’s expedition from 26 August to 16 September, included 40 hours of diving time and the divers were joined by four professional archaeologists for the first time.

They performed controlled excavation to the highest scientific standard using the multi-dimensional map for guidance, at depths of 180ft (55-metre).

It was the first scientific excavation of the wreck and launched the first comprehensive study of all of its artefacts.

During the multi-year program the team expects to recover artefacts and ancient artwork still buried in the seafloor, and recreate the history of the ship’s cargo and its final voyage.

Greek technical diver Alexandros Sotiriou previously discovered an intact 'lagynos' ceramic table jug and a bronze rigging ring on the Antikythera Shipwreck. These objects were among the first finds when divers returned to the 2,200-year-old wreck off the coast of Greece last year

Antikythera (highlighted) which now has a population of just 44, was once one of antiquity's busiest trade routes, and a base for Cilician pirates, some of whom once captured and held the young Julius Caesar for ransom. He later had them all captured and crucified

‘This shipwreck is far from exhausted,’ said project co-director Dr. Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with WHOI.

‘Every single dive on it delivers fabulous finds, and reveals how the “1 per cent” lived in the time of Caesar.’

In addition to Dr Foley, the 2015 exploration at Antikythera was conducted by the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities under director Dr. Ageliki Simosi and field archaeologists Dr. Theotokis Theodoulou and Dr. Dimitris Kourkoumelis.

The ten-man dive team used advanced technical diving equipment including closed-circuit rebreathers and trimix breathing gases, performing 61 dives in 10 days of diving on the wreck. The equipment is being used to explore the Antikythera shipwreck and has allowed experts to dive to more than double the depths of previous expeditions (pictured)

Underwater archaeologists looking for buried treasures from an ancient shipwreck in Greece have been using a high-tech ‘Exosuit’

The Exosuit, built in Canada by Nuytco Research, lets divers reach depths of 492ft (150 metres).

It is made of aluminium, with 18 joints in the arms and legs.

The suit is able to supply oxygen for up to 50 hours, and maintains communication with the surface via an optical cable.

It also has four 1.6 horsepower thrusters on the back to help the diver move around underwater at relatively high speeds.

Each suit weighs between 35 (226kg) and 42 stone (272kg).

Prices start at around £360,000 ($588,000)

A remotely operated vehicle monitored and recorded all diving activities, and served as a communications link between divers and support personnel on the surface.

Meanwhile, a metal detection survey of the site revealed that metallic targets are dispersed over an area of around 130 feet by 165 feet (40 x 50 metres).

This is thought to match the wreck’s debris field, indicating the size of the ship that sank off the cliffs of Antikythera.

Previously recovered artifacts from the Antikythera Shipwreck are on display in a special exhibition ‘Der Versunkene Schatz das Schiffswrack von Antikythera’ [The Sunken Treasure of the Antikythera Shipwreck] at the Basel Antiquities Museum in Switzerland.

The exhibition runs until March and it is the first time that these ancient treasures have been allowed to leave the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.