Divers for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found human remains near a shipwreck off the coast of Greece. Archaeologists believe the remains to be that of a Roman male in his 20s, though conclusive testing is needed to confirm this suspicion. This discovery promises to finally shed light on the ancient ship’s fateful voyage and the lives of Ancient Romans.
Take a Look Back at the Antikythera Shipwreck
The Greek island of Antikythera sits between north of Crete between the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. It’s believed the ship found off the coast of the island dates back thousands of years to the Ancient Romans. Experts believe the ship sank in the first century as it traveled from Asia Minor to Rome. However, no one knows who was on the ship or what circumstances led to it sinking.
Divers originally found the Antikythera shipwreck in the 1900s, and a recovery attempt began over the next couple of years. Marble and bronze statues, coins, art, jewelry, and many other items were pulled from the wreckage. They are on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece. A more interesting find involved a set of bronze gears able to determine eclipses by tracking movements of planets, the sun, and the moon. Experts liken the Antikythera Mechanism to that of an ancient computer.
In the 1970s, Jacques Cousteau and his team journeyed to the shipwreck to film Diving for Roman Plunder. They recovered additional artifacts. Despite these early expeditions, the site proved challenging as it was too deep for divers, but it was too shallow for submersible vessels. It was also located near underwater cliffs, which made it difficult for underwater vehicles to explore.
In 2012 and 2014, advancements in technology brought a team of divers and archaeologists back to the site. Using pressured diving suits, divers now have the ability to spend more time exploring the floor surrounding the ship. Archaeologists analyzed the area using high-quality imaging software and determined most recovered artifacts are found near what’s believed to be the stern. By targeting the stern, researchers feel they’re exploring the galley area.
Thousands of Years Later a Body’s Found
A new search of the site started in June. Divers from WHOI and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports found glassware, weapons, ceramics, and jewelry. They also found a second ship nearby, but that was the just beginning of their discoveries.
While sifting through silt on the seafloor, divers spotted two long bones and a skull. After a thorough search, divers recovered two leg bones, some ribs, multiple arm bones, a jaw with a few teeth, and part of the skull. The portion of skull includes a section known for containing material suitable to DNA testing. They feel certain they’ve found the galley area and hope that more discovers like this are imminent.
The Natural History Museum of Denmark has the remains of a person they’ve named Pamphilos. They’re awaiting permission from the Greek government to begin tests. The clock is ticking, as DNA deteriorates rapidly when there’s a change in environment. Experts plan to see if any material exists for extracting and testing DNA. If DNA is present, hopes are high that discovering the person’s origins and gender will shed light on this centuries-old mystery.
For now, people must wait and see. If the testing is allowed, the first round of DNA testing should be processed by late October.
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