Saturday, October 01, 2016 Headlines & Global News

Mediterranean Shipwreck Yields 2,000-year old Skeleton

Underwater experts have found a 2,000-year old skeleton on a famous shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera. The remains, discovered about 165 feet below the water surface, include a partial skull, several ribs, two arms and two femurs.

By Brian Ang | Sep 23, 2016 09:57 AM EDT

2,000-year old Skeleton in Antikythera Wreck
The Antikythera mechanism, 205 BC
Credit: Heritage Images / Contributor
Editorial #: 600054217
Collection: Hulton Archive
The Antikythera mechanism, 205 BC. Found in the collection of National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Artist : Historic Object. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images) (Photo : getty images)


According to the scientific journal Nature, underwater archaeologists have found a 2,000-year old skeleton on a popular shipwreck off the tiny Greek island of Antikythera. Originally discovered by sponge divers in 1900, this debris is the first ever to be investigated by experts.

A team of international archaeologists from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) believe that the partial skeleton recovered, which resided about 165 feet or 50 meters below the surface, is a male in his early 20s.

Around that time, the most fascinating find on the wreckage of the merchant ship was the "Antikythera mechanism" which is a sophisticated clockwork device that models the motions of the sun, the moon and the planets. However, the skeleton could be an even incredible discovery considering that scientists are excited about the possibility of a first-ever DNA analysis of an ancient shipwreck victim.

According to Hannes Schroeder, an expert in the analysis of ancient DNA from the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, it is possible that one of the people who crossed the Mediterranean 2,000 years ago was the astronomer who owned the mechanism. He adds that this exploration could give him the chance to push the boundaries of studying ancient DNA. Nature has noted that Schroeder was part of a team that published the first genome sequence of a Neolithic skeleton from Spain found in the Mediterranean.

Mark Dunley, an underwater archaeologist from the London-based heritage organization Historic England, has speculated that the skeleton could be a slave. He explains that crew members are able to get out of the ship relatively fast during an accident but for people who had been shackled, the opportunity to escape is down to zero. Interestingly, the area where the victim's remains were found is surrounded by corroded iron objects.

The skeleton is actually a rare find. Surprisingly, the bones which include a partial skull, two arms, several ribs and two femurs can also assist in unlocking the secrets about the famous first century BC merchant ship which possibly got hit by a storm.

However, the Greek government has yet to give permission for DNA testing.



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