Video The ancient shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera has already yielded up archeological wonders but now marine archeologists have found a body buried in the wreck that could yield up some clues as to the ship’s origins.
The shipwreck, one of the largest found from the ancient world, was discovered in 1900 and is best known for housing the Antikythera mechanism, a badly corroded device that is thought to be an early analog computer used for calculating planetary movements. Now the wreck has revealed the remains of one of the crew.
"Archaeologists study the human past through the objects our ancestors created," said Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), who found the bones. "With the Antikythera Shipwreck, we can now connect directly with this person who sailed and died aboard the Antikythera ship."
The remains include a parts of a skull with three teeth, long bones from the arms and legs, and several ribs. They have now been sent for DNA analysis and the boffins are quietly confident that useful samples can be obtained.
"Against all odds, the bones survived over 2,000 years at the bottom of the sea and they appear to be in fairly good condition, which is incredible," said Dr. Hannes Schroeder of the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.
The bones of the long-dead crew member appear to be from a young man, although further examination is required. Finding DNA could tell archeologists more about the ship and where it came from.
The ship is thought to have sunk in the first century before Christ and historians have speculated that it was full of booty captured by the Roman general Sulla, who plundered Greece at that time. If the DNA samples do show Italian ancestry then this would add weight to the theory.
Then again, there’ll be some hoping for more esoteric results. Some of the more wild speculators have claimed the Antikythera mechanism was of extraterrestrial origin, as mankind produced no devices of comparable complexity until around 1,500 years after the ship carrying the mechanism sank. ®