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Another great discovery on the famous wreck from Antikythera

Archaeologists during this year’s work on the Antikythera wreck have found interesting artefacts, and among them is the head of Hercules. The wreck of Antikythera is an archaeological site which was discovered in 1900 by Greek sponge fishermen. Many wonderful artefacts were discovered on this ancient wreck, some of which have made us look at
Published: June 20, 2022 - 09:00
Updated: July 23, 2023 - 00:56
Another great discovery on the famous wreck from Antikythera

Archaeologists during this year’s work on the Antikythera wreck have found interesting artefacts, and among them is the head of Hercules.

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The wreck of Antikythera is an archaeological site which was discovered in 1900 by Greek sponge fishermen. Many wonderful artefacts were discovered on this ancient wreck, some of which have made us look at history in a different way. The site is still being worked on by archaeologists, who have uncovered further artefacts during the season just ended. Without doubt, the one that has attracted the most interest is a fragment of a statue – the head of Hercules.

Excavation work on the wreck Underwater archaeologist on the Antikythera wreck
Excavation work on the wreck Underwater archaeologist on the Antikythera wreck Photo: Nikos Giannoulakis

This was due to the fact that it can match the torso, which was found and excavated over 120 years ago. It would be an amazing bracket if it turned out that the two pieces form a whole that can be reunited years later. Or at least confirm that this is the case and be able to present them in one exhibition.

Archaeologists carried out this year’s research work on the famous Antikythera wreck from 23 May to 15 June 2022. In doing so, they completed The second of five phases, scheduled for 2021-2025. All work was successfully completed, combining contemporary research with the iconic diving operations of 1900-1901.

The main objective of the programme is to gain a better and more accurate understanding of the ship, its route, cargo and the condition of the wreck.

Head of the statue of Hercules at the bottom of the sea
Head of Hercules statue found at the bottom Photo: Nikos Giannoulakis

Field investigations in 2022 included the relocation of selected large natural boulders. These partially covered the area of the wreck during the incident under investigation. The boulders weigh up to 8.5 tonnes each and their removal allowed access to a previously unexplored part of the wreck. The custom configuration consisting of heavy-duty rigging, idrodynamics and a pressurised air delivery system was developed by the team at Hublot Xplorations, a popular Swiss watch manufacturer.

Archaeologists working on the Antikythera wreck
Archaeologists working with the ejector Photo: Nikos Giannoulakis

New discoveries and the head of Hercules

During the second stage of work, among other things, the following were found:

  • The base of the marble statue, including the lower parts of the legs, covered with a thick layer of marine sediment. It is expected that the first stages of cleaning and restoration of the artwork will soon reveal more details for further analysis.
  • Marble head of a bearded male figure, larger than life-size. It seems that at first glance it can be identified with Herakles (Hercules) of the so-called Farnese type. Researchers link the find with a headless statue of Heracles excavated in 1900. Currently, the torso is in the National Archaeological Museum.
  • Scientists hope to obtain important information from two human teeth discovered in a solid agglomerate of marine sediments. Genetic and isotopic analysis of the teeth could be useful for obtaining information about the genome and other features relevant to the origins of the people to whom they belonged.
  • Divers also recovered numerous items from the ship’s equipment, such as bronze and iron nails, the lead collar of a sizable wooden anchor and amorphous masses of iron concretions covered by marine sediments. X-ray and other specialised laboratory analyses will help to determine their function.

Photogrammetric model of the site

Artefact fished out and examined by archaeologist
A fished head on the surface Photo Antikythera Expedition

The exact position and archaeological context of each find has been documented in detail during the excavation. They will soon be incorporated into a 3D model of the site, which has been under development since October 2022. The researchers took sediment samples from pre-determined areas of the seabed, which made micro-analysis possible. It will provide a better understanding of the dimensions and exact position of the wreck. Together with the ongoing analysis of the artefacts, new microarchaeological practices will increase the possibility of accurately reconstructing the distribution of the wreck and the conditions under which the ship sank in the first half of the 1st century BC.

The research is being carried out by the Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece under the direction of Dr Angelika G. Simosi, head of the Ephorate of Euboean Antiquities, and Lorenzo Baumer, professor of classical archaeology at the University of Geneva. The field research, in turn, is under the supervision of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, and the project is under the patronage of Greek President Katerina Sakielaropulu.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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