Feature: Piraeus port exhibition offers dive into Greece's richest shipwreck

Source: Xinhua| 2018-03-17 02:01:01|Editor: Liangyu
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Photo taken on March 15, 2018 shows the new findings from the archaeological excavations of the famous Antikythera shipwreck at the Aikaterini Laskarides Foundation Historical Library in Piraeus port near Athens, capital of Greece. Visitors of the Aikaterini Laskarides Foundation Historical Library at Piraeus port are being offered a chance to take a dive into the history of Greece's richest ancient shipwreck. (Xinhua/Lefteris Partsalis)

ATHENS, March 16 (Xinhua) -- Visitors of the Aikaterini Laskarides Foundation Historical Library at Piraeus port are being offered a chance to take a dive into the history of Greece's richest ancient shipwreck.

More than a century ago, sponge divers stumbled upon a remarkable discovery near the coasts of Antikythera, a remote island between Crete and Peloponnese in the Aegean Sea.

After decades of research, the famous Antikythera shipwreck, the remains of an ancient vessel of the middle of the 1st century BC which carried art and technological treasures, is still yielding exciting findings.

The merchant vessel is believed to have been was sailing from Asia to Rome when it sank off the Greek island.

The most famous finding among the treasures which have been pulled up to the surface is the Antikythera Mechanism, a bronze complex clockwork calculating device which was found in 1902 and is considered the first analogue computer in history designed to estimate astronomical positions.

In collaboration with Greece's Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, the Aikaterini Laskarides Foundation is showcasing from December 2017 until April 15, 2018 the remarkable findings from the latest excavation campaign at the shipwreck, before scientists return later this spring to continue their work.

Thirty-seven objects from the excavations carried out from 2014 to September 2017 are presented in the exhibition "The Antikythera Shipwreck -- the Adventure Continues."

Elia Nikitopoulou, archaeologist at the foundation, talked to Xinhua about the significance of the Antikythera Shipwreck and the new findings.

"The first excavation was made in 1901 with sponge divers from Symi who were hired by the Greek state to retrieve whatever was found on the surface of the seabed. This was done with major difficulties and human losses. This recovery of cultural treasures from the sea marks the birth of underwater archaeology worldwide," Nikitopoulou explained.

Several missions of explorations since then, including a campaign in the mid 70s with the participation of the famous late French oceanologist Jacques-Yves Cousteau, brought to light hundreds of exciting items.

"We say that this is the greatest ancient shipwreck in the world, because of the uniqueness of the cargo. So far we have not found anything similar," the Greek expert said.

With the latest research, new pieces are added to the puzzle of this unique, ancient shipwreck.

"Two of the latest finds are particularly interesting. They are fragments of bronze statues: a hand and part of a garment. It is not only because they are parts of bronze statues which as we know there are only a few which have been salvaged from antiquity, but also because it seems that they were discovered at a place where we expect to find more similar objects," she said.

Scientists who take part in the latest round of research at Antikythera believe that more treasures may be lying buried under huge stones after a landslide.

"In the case of this shipwreck, we should note that several objects have been found in exceptional condition. Some were quickly covered by the sand; therefore we have parts of the ancient keel. It is very rare finding wood in ancient shipwrecks which has been preserved," Nikitopoulou said.

"The sea was very good to us in this case. We should add that the sea depth where the shipwreck was found was also a factor which contributed to its protection. It is about 55 meters below the sea surface and diving is not easy," she added.

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