More Priceless Ancient Artifacts Found at Famed Antikythera Shipwreck

Archaeological divers excavating the Antikythera shipwreck have unearthed even more priceless artifacts, including fragments of statues and a mysterious bronze disc.

The site is among the richest underwater discoveries and dates back to the early days of the Roman Empire. Discovered more than a century ago, the 2,000-year-old wreck was once a cargo ship laden with art, pottery, and an ancient computer—known as the Antikythera mechanism—capable of tracking the movements of heavenly bodies with incredible precision.

Brendan Foley and Gemma Smith excavate a sand pocket on the site.

On the latest dive to the site, which took place September 4–20, archaeologists found fragments of marble and bronze statues among the treasures.

Here’s Nicholas St. Fleur, reporting for the New York Times:

They said the haul hints at the existence of at least seven more bronze sculptures still buried beneath the seafloor. Bronze sculptures from that era are rare because they were often melted down to make swords, shields and other items. Only about 50 intact examples have survived, so if the team can salvage the submerged statues, it would be a remarkable recovery of ancient artifacts.

A closeup of the bronze statue fragment recovered from the site.

Divers first discovered the wreck in the early 1900s. At the time, they hauled up six right arms. The seventh remained undiscovered until last month, buried a foot and a half beneath the seafloor. The team was only able to find it by using a specially designed metal detector that can peer through more than six feet of rock and sediment.

Alexandros Sotiriou's specially built metal detector can “see” through more than six feet of rock.

The other notable artifact, a metal disc, measures about three inches across. X-rays of the object revealed a smooth circle with four metal eyelets, likely used for affixing the object to a statue, the ship, or even the Antikythera mechanism.

The metal disc found on the site

The team also brought up fragments of the ship’s hull along with the nails that held it together, two crucial types of artifacts that will help them determine where the ship was built. (Currently, the leading theory is that it was built in Greece for trade on the Mediterranean.)

The 160-foot long ship likely sunk in a raging storm, flinging its cargo across the seafloor before coming to rest. Archaeologists will dive again in 2018 to explore the hold of the ship.

Divers will return to the site in 2018.