Exploration

More Treasures Recovered from Antikythera Wreck

The objects include a gold ring and a unique lead and iron artifact that weighs about 220 pounds.

More than 60 artifacts have been recovered from the bottom of Aegean Sea by divers who returned this month to the famed Antikythera shipwreck.

The objects include a gold ring and a unique lead and iron artifact that weighs about 220 pounds and may have been a defensive weapon to protect the ship against attacks from pirates. Known as dolphins, such weapons were dropped onto the deck of an attacking vessel.

The vessel, dubbed the "Titanic of the ancient world," sank more than 2,000 years ago off the remote island of Antikythera, in southern Greece. The ship was probably smashed against the island's sheer cliffs during a violent storm around 65 B.C.

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The wreck is believed to have been a Roman commercial vessel that was carrying a luxury cargo of Greek treasures from the coast of Asia Minor west to Rome. It was found by Greek sponge divers in 1900.

At that time the divers retrieved a treasure hoard which included dozens of marble statues, jewelry, furniture and the mysterious "Antikythera mechanism" -- a complex, geared astronomical calculator known as the world's oldest computer.

In 1976, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and the CALYPSO crew returned to the wreck and recovered nearly 300 objects, including skeletal remains of the passengers and crew.

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But scouring the treacherous wreck site, 170 feet down a steep underwater slope, proved dangerous and explorations were halted.

A new high-tech project of the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) began in 2014, with divers recovering several objects such as an intact table jug, part of an ornate bed leg, and a giant bronze spear that would have belonged to a life-sized warrior statue.

The artifacts brought to light this month include luxury glassware, ceramic decanters, four fragments of marble statues, and part of a bronze spear which connects to the one that was retrieved in 2014.

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"Every new dive on the Antikythera Shipwreck delivers gifts from the ancient past," Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with WHOI, said.

The researchers used an autonomous robot to map a 10,500-square-meter (2.6 acres) area of sea floor around the wreck. Then divers descended to a depth of 170 feet. Some objects were left on site.

"The team generates precise three-dimensional digital models of every artifact, allowing discoveries to be shared instantly and widely even if the objects remain on the sea floor," WHOI said in a statement.

Unfortunately, the divers were unable to find more pieces of the puzzling Antikythera mechanism. They were however able to confirm that a wreck of a second ancient cargo ship lies close by the Antikythera vessel.

The international team plans to return to the Antikythera wreck site at the end of the summer.