2100-year-old human skeleton found on Antikythera Shipwreck

New York: A human skeleton found during the ongoing excavation of the famous Antikythera Shipwreck — the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered — could provide an insight into the lives of people who lived 2100 years ago, say researchers.

The shipwreck, possibly a massive grain carrier, which holds the remains of a Greek trading or cargo ship, is located off the Greek island of Antikythera in the Aegean Sea.

Led by archaeologists and technical experts from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in the US, the team excavated and recovered a human skull including a jaw and teeth, long bones of the arms and legs, ribs and other remains.

Other portions of the skeleton are still embedded in the seafloor, awaiting excavation during the next phase of operations.

“Archaeologists study the human past through the objects our ancestors created,” said Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with WHOI.

“With the Antikythera Shipwreck, we can now connect directly with this person who sailed and died aboard the Antikythera ship,” Foley noted in a WHOI statement.

The Antikythera Shipwreck was discovered and salvaged in 1900 by Greek sponge divers. In addition to dozens of marble statues and thousands of antiquities, their efforts produced the Antikythera Mechanism — an astounding artifact known as the world’s first computer.

The skeleton discovered on August 31, 2016, is the first to be recovered from an ancient shipwreck since the advent of DNA studies.

Ancient DNA expert Hannes Schroeder of the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen is seeking permission from the Greek authorities for a full suite of analyses.

If enough viable DNA is preserved in the bones, it may be possible to identify the ethnicity and geographic origin of the shipwreck victim.

“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,” Schroeder said.