Year Old Skeleton Found Inside Antikythera Shipwreck

On August 31, an global team of researchers and divers led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) retrieved the first ancient skeleton from a shipwreck since the advent of DNA studies.

It doesn t look like bones that are 2 000 years old Brendan Foley an underwater archeologist at Woodshole Oceanographic Institution in MA and co director of the excavation told Nature.

If the team is able to successfully extract DNA from the bones, it will mark the first time an ancient shipwreck casualty has been genetically sequenced.

"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 remains include a skull, with a jaw and teeth and bones from the arms, legs and ribs.

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Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found the bones buried under a half-a-meter of pottery artifacts and sand on August 31 at the shipwreck site - which is about a 10-minute boat ride away from Antikythera Island in the Aegean Sea.

One of the most famous artifacts from the site is the Antikythera Mechanism; an astronomical device used in the second B.C.E., which has been dubbed as the world's oldest computer. Discovered by sponge divers in 1901, the wreck has yielded a king's ransom in ancient bronze statues, silver coins, ceramic jars, marble sculptures and decadent gold jewelry.

The scientists said that it is rare and uncommon for skeletons to be found in shipwrecks.

The wreck, sitting in almost 50 meters (165 feet) of water, was first discovered by sponge divers in 1900, and is widely believed to be the first ever investigated by archaeologists. They found lead sheets from the hull of the main ship that were sourced from mines in northern Greece, and deduced from the preservation of the human remains that they must have been buried by organic material right after they sank. Judging by the well-preserved state of the bones, researchers say the person was male, likely a teenager or in his early twenties, and might have been trapped when the ship went down. This is because victims are usually swept away or eaten by marine animals. "It doesn't look like bone that's 2,000 years old". He also said he is looking forward to seeing the results from the DNA analysis. The DNA testing is yet to be approved by the Greek government. The complexity and intricate design intrigued and puzzled experts for decades; they eventually discovered that it was capable of showing lunar phases and the positions of the sun, moon and planets on a given date.

  • Douglas Reid