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Return to Antikythera: Divers revisit wreck where ancient computer fou

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The Guardian is carrying this story of a new 3 week expedition to explore the site where the Antikyther Device was discovered back in 1900/1901.

 

THe site being explored is host to several diffulties not least the danger of bends when divers are operating at depths of 70 meters or more over an extended period but equally it has a lot of promise since there are nearby wrecks whcih have not been previously explored and this is hopeful for the discovery of possibly more parts from the device or even another version.

 

In 1900, Greek sponge divers stumbled across "a pile of dead, naked women" on the seabed near the tiny island of Antikythera. It turned out the figures were not corpses but bronze and marble statues, part of a cargo of stolen Greek treasure that was lost when the Roman ship carrying them sank two thousand years ago on the island's treacherous rocks.

 

It was the first marine wreck to be studied by archaeologists, and yielded the greatest haul of ancient treasure that had ever been found. Yet the salvage project

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I can't believe that nobody has dived there since Cousteau! Cannot really empathize how excited I am about this.

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I think it's so interesting,too. Hope we don't have to wait too long to hear the results of the dive.

Edited by Crispina

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USA Today have now picked up on this story - no major revelations prior to the talk apart from accurate surveying revealing that the wrecked ship was apparently twice as long as previously realised. They have also found more encrusted objects which need X-raying and subsequent conservation to see if they contain anything interesteing. It really is a case of keep watching this space for at least the next couple of years as work continues on the site and then the real revelations are liable to emerge as post-excavation and conservation work kicks in.

 

Ancient artifacts resembling the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient bronze clockwork astronomical calculator, may rest amid the larger-than-expected Roman shipwreck that yielded the device in 1901.

 

Marine archaeologists report they have uncovered new secrets of an ancient Roman shipwreck famed for yielding an amazingly sophisticated astronomical calculator. An international survey team says the ship is twice as long as originally thought and contains many more calcified objects amid the ship's lost cargo that hint at new discoveries.

 

At the Archaeological Institute of America meeting Friday in Seattle, marine archaeologist Brendan Foley of the Woods Hole (Mass.) Oceanographic Institution, will report on the first survey of Greece's famed Antikythera island shipwreck since 1976. The ancient Roman shipwreck was lost off the Greek coast around 67 BC,filled with statues and the famed astronomical clock. ...continued

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"Obviously there are a lot of artifacts still down there, but we will need to be very careful about our next steps. This ship was not a normal one," Theodoulou says.

 

:lol:

 

No it was a ship most likely loaded with plunder goods from Sullas campaigns in Greece :)I just love an informative comment!

 

But on a serious not, definitely going to read this later. Thanks!

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I suppose one question they may be toying with is IF it is a single wreck rather than two lying close together she is enormous for her day so could she possibly have been an early version of the ships which formed the grain fleet?

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I suppose one question they may be toying with is IF it is a single wreck rather than two lying close together she is enormous for her day so could she possibly have been an early version of the ships which formed the grain fleet?

 

Well it wouldn't really be that strange with such a large ship, I don't even know why they are making such a big deal about it. Much much larger ships had been used by the military long before this and I am sure that the Athenian grain fleet included something this big. Fair enough, 60 meters would be a lot but not even comparable to giants like Hierons Syracusia, later Alexandria (depending on that length estimate you prefer).

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A sub-link from the third link you posted earlier on lists some (all?) of the major Romano-Greek wreck finds over the last century.

 

Although very few of the short descriptions of the wrecks give any real indication of how large the remains found were or how large the original ship may have been but I get the impression that a wreck potentially 60m long is well into the upper limits of what has previously been found.

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A sub-link from the third link you posted earlier on lists some (all?) of the major Romano-Greek wreck finds over the last century.

 

Although very few of the short descriptions of the wrecks give any real indication of how large the remains found were or how large the original ship may have been but I get the impression that a wreck potentially 60m long is well into the upper limits of what has previously been found.

 

Perhaps. I know very little about ancient ships, but I believe the length of a perfectly normal (semi-local) merchant vessel would be between 20 and 30 meters, although smaller 10 to 20 meters ships certainly existed - I have seen one myself.

 

Further on, a trireme was about 35 meters long but it's a war ship and I'm unsure about how it would compare to grain ships. A trireme was, however, a fairly small war ship during the Hellenistic period from which the antikythera wreak originate.

 

Archaeologically I know of two ships over 60 meters from the greeco roman period: the ones at Nemi which meassured over 65 meters each (I believe one was close to 70). In the ancient literature we find that Isis (probably a fantasy ship) was a marvel to behold at ca 55 meters (Lucian - The Ship of Wishes 435-437).

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If we are to believe ancient sources, the prestige ship Leontophoros, built by Lysimachos at the time of the Diadochoi, might well have been a double-hulled catamaran of a lenght of some 110m and a crew of 1200 (John D. Grainger Helleistic and Roman naval wars 336-31BC, 2011, page 52) : it was used in battle in 280 BC. Demetrios had ships of similar lenght, although single-hulled. Ptolemy Philadelphos might have had up to about 111 warships of more than 50m in his fleet, according to Athenaios' Deipnosophists (op cit, page 54, considering a quinquereme to be at least that size, although John F. Coates speaks of only 45m).

 

So a 60m long ship is by no element unbelievable, but there must not have been many more than 100-250 built in all the ancient period. The find at Nemi were thus exceptional, and the confirmed discovery of another one in the form of the Antikithera ship would be trully amazing.

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Do you know any other good books on Hellenistic naval topics Bryaxis? Perhaps in the bibliography? I tried to find the book you mentioned at my university library, but it seems that it is too new for us...

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Thanks a lot! I'm currently holding Steven Sidebothams Berenike and the ancient maritime spice route in my hand and he states that: "these rough surface dimensions suggest that a ship less than 19-22 meter wide [sic] with a length less than 60-61 m, possibly as little at 36-37 m, could fit in this space [the harbor moors]"

 

He also suggests that these ships were of medium to large size and adds that a normal size in the Mediterranean sea was 10-45 m, based on actual remains.

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I'm not surprised, indeed the standard size will have been rather small... My thinking goes along the lines of :

 

1) lot of trade was coastal, point to point, rather than through the middle of the seas

2) capital investment was needed to load a ship, capital which may not have been readily availlable or, more importantly, not risqued in a single ship

3) large ship building techniques were geared more toward trireme size (about 35m), and little military incentive were provided to build bigger ships, especially after the 2nd century BC when the Diadoch had disapeared and with them the ability to muster the special ressources, with the exception of Egypt. In the imperial period warship size was also rather smaller due to the fact their were no rivals in the Med'

4) scaling up from small boat construction to large monsters might have been beyhond the skill of most shipbuilders

5) port infrastructure was probably not developped enough to accomodate large ships, leaving only a few cities as availlable destinations (Ostia, Alexandria,...)

6) issues with ports sedimentating meant that it might have been decided not to use big ships to reduce the need to dreg them

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