Divers Make Herculean Find at Antikythera Wreck

Once giant boulders were removed, head of Hercules statue found in 1900 emerged
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2022 11:05 AM CDT
Updated Jun 26, 2022 7:35 AM CDT
Divers Find Long-Lost Head of Hercules
A diver looks at the head of a statue, believed to represent the demigod Hercules, at the Antikythera wreck.   (Return to Antikythera)

(Newser) – Marine archaeologists have better access to the world's richest ancient shipwreck after boulders were lifted from the Roman-era Antikythera wreck that yielded the famous Antikythera Mechanism calculator, revealing new treasures within. In addition to human teeth, the lead weight for an anchor, iron nails, and the base of a marble statue, archaeologists have discovered the missing head of a statue of demigod Hercules, pulled from the wreck soon after its discovery in 1900 and now kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, per the Guardian and Artnet News. "It is twice life-size, has a big beard, a very particular face, and short hair. There is no doubt it is Hercules," archaeologist Lorenz Baumer of the University of Geneva tells the Guardian.

The Hellenic Coast Guard's lifting of three 9-ton boulders, likely deposited more than 150 feet below the surface of the Aegean Sea by an ancient earthquake, revealed an area of the wreck previously unexplored. "It's so deep [divers] can only be down there for 30 minutes," says Baumer. "But now we have an idea of what has been hiding under those rocks," and "each find helps us piece together more context in our understanding of the ship, its cargo, the crew, and where they were from." Perhaps a merchant ship traveling from the eastern Mediterranean to Rome when it sunk in a storm in the first 50 years of the first century BC, the ship also gave up two human teeth during recent explorations carried out from May 23 to June 15.

"Discovered in a solid agglomerate of marine deposits together with fragments of copper, wood, and other materials typical of a maritime disaster," the teeth will undergo DNA analysis, researchers write in a release, per Vice. "Genetic and isotopic analysis of the teeth might be useful to deduce information on the genome and other characteristics relevant to the origin of the individuals they belonged to." Following another in October 2021, this excavation is part of an underwater archaeological research program expected to run until 2025, per Artnet. "Since the ship was transporting the highest quality of luxury goods, there is a very real possibility of unimaginable finds, similar in importance to the Mechanism," the expedition website reads, per Vice. (Read more Antikythera stories.)

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