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The Antikythera shipwreck

The antikyhthera wreck was probably a Corbita.

There are many maritime heritage sites throughout the world that are of great importance and extraordinary beauty.  The one that has really caught my eye in the last few years is the ‘’Shipwreck of Antikythera’’.  It is one of the most important underwater excavations in Greece that recovered exquisite artefacts and brought to the surface new historic findings that changed and shaped the Greek maritime archaeology. The excavation of the shipwreck is still a working progress and it is expected to reveal even greater findings than the ones that have already been uncovered.
The shipwreck was discovered by accident in October 1900 by a group of sponge divers that tried to escape a storm and decide to make a stop by the island of Antikythera. During their stay on the island they decided to take advantage of it and they dove into the sea in order to find sponges. However, they discovered something much more significant than that. Together with the Greek Ministry of Education and the Royal Navy they started the excavations. Later on, the world known Cousteau continued their work by excavating in 1976. After that Greek archaeologists, in combination with foreign archaeological institutes, decided to take on the underwater excavation and finish the work of their predecessors.
The actual ship that wrecked in the Antikythera sea is believed to be a cargo ship and it is dated back to 75 – 50 BC. In the previous underwater excavations they discovered many valuable things such as jewellery, glassware and pottery.
The most important was the bronze statue, that is known as the ‘’Antikythera Youth’’.  The well preserved statue dates back to c. 340 – 330 BC. and it depicts a young man standing in a frontal pose. On top of that was the discovery of the ‘’Antikythera mechanism’’ a device that showed the movement of the sun, moon and the stars, as well as the potential to predict eclipses.
   In the latest underwater excavations the divers retracted a bronze arm that starts from the shoulder and ends to the fingers. In the artefacts are also included a bronze drape part that seemed to belong to a statue and a disc fragment which appears to have an image of a bull on top of it, as X – rays have shown. Lastly, there was a wooden part of the ship found that seems to be very promising in revealing the circumstances under which the ship wrecked. However, the actual ship remains on the bottom of the sea and has yet to be discovered.
   Having said that, I would like to express my view on why I chose this maritime heritage and the reason I find it so fascinating. First of all, it is a shipwreck that was discovered in Greece, not far away from the place I grew up. The first time I heard of it was during my Bachelor studies and I was really intrigued by it. The findings and the artefacts are quite unique and well preserved given the fact that they remained on the sea bed for many centuries. The statues that were found reveal that the ship carried art pieces, not only bronze but marble (fig.3) as well. This discovery on its own is of great importance because art pieces of this size were transported, sold and given to other places as well. The specific cargo ship and ships that fall into this category should have been more advanced in order to carry such heavy objects, like statues, other than the regular products such as wine, oil etc.
   Another reason that makes the Antikythera shipwreck outstanding is the fact that this ship carried bronze statues. It is very rare to find bronze statues in any type of excavation, that’s why archaeologists haven’t found a lot of them. The reason behind it is that bronze artefacts and artworks were usually recycled or repurposed. That is why finding such pieces, especially whole statues is a rare opportunity. This cargo ship must have been of great importance given the fact that it carried a variety of art pieces on it. From bronze statues, to spears, to Antikythera mechanism, to human skeletons, to a disc with a stamp on top of it, one can make many speculations about the purpose and the journey of this ship.
   Finally, I think that everything that is being discovered by archaeologists throughout the world is important because it entails information about our past and helps us understand better the environment we are in and our ancestors. Regarding to maritime archaeology and maritime heritage the Antikythera shipwreck is one that stands out to my perspective. I listed above the reasons behind this view. The fact that there is a lot more to be discovered around this small island in Greece that hides under its sea important treasures, is also one of the reasons I chose it as my favourite maritime heritage site.  
The wreck and its contents