Missing head from Hercules marble statue found at the antikythera shipwreck. Photo by photo Nikos Giannoulakis
Treasure under the sea was discovered on the Greek island of Antikythera, on a Roman-era cargo ship, considered the world’s richest ancient shipwreck. Discovered 120 years ago, it yielded treasures such as statues, jewelry, and human remains, over several expeditions.
The research was conducted by the Swiss School of Archeology in Greece under the direction of Dr. Angeliki G. Simosi, head of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Euboea, and Lorenz Baumer, Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Geneva.
Scientists were fascinated by the mystery of the shipwreck, setting up an ongoing underwater archaeological project that most recently uncovered a large marble head of Hercules, believed to be part of a statue which was found hundreds of years ago.
As reported by The Guardian, Professor Lorenz Baumer, said, “it’s an impressive marble piece. It is twice life size, has a big beard, a very particular face, and short hair. There is no doubt it is Hercules,” describing characteristics that represent one of the greatest heroic figures of Greek and Roman mythology.
The discovery of the sculpture, along with other artifacts found such as human teeth, part of the ship’s equipment, and the base of another marble statue, took place after removing over three 8.5-tontonne boulders that had partly covered the wreck at the bottom of the seabed.
Trained divers and marine archaeologists researched the area for three weeks, working at depths of 50 meters, accessing areas that had never been explored before.
“It’s so deep they can only be down there for 30 minutes,” said Baumer, adding, “but now we have an idea of what has been hiding under those rocks … each find helps us piece together more context in our understanding of the ship, its cargo, the crew, and where they were from.”
The exploration of such objects initially began in 1900, when a Greek sponge diver, Elias Stadiatis, discovered the wreck which was supposedly encircled by rotting corpses. At first, the captain of the ship, Dimitrios Kondos, didn’t believe Stadiatis and thought that the nitrogen had affected the diver’s senses, so he decided to explore the site himself.
By mid 1901, all kinds of artifacts were found during Kondos’ search with his crew including 36 marble sculptures, a bronze statue, pieces of glasswork, a bronze lyre, and three marble horse statues. These valuable pieces are now sheltered in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
The most significant find at the site is the renowned ‘Antikythera mechanism,’ a unique astronomical calculator with sophisticated gears the likes of which were not seen again in Europe for 1,500 years.
All latest findings have been safely transported to the facilities of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, after they have been treated as instructed by the Conservation Department of the Ephorate.
The field research has been directed by Alexandros Sotiriou, associate researcher of the University of Geneva.
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