Head of Hercules Discovered in Ancient Roman Shipwreck

The head of a 2,000-year-old statue of Hercules has been found in the world-famous Antikythera shipwreck as well as other artifacts such as human teeth.

The ship carrying the mysterious Antikythera Mechanism is believed to have sank in the Aegean Sea 2,000 years ago during the Roman era. This sponge was found by divers off Point Glyphadia on the Greek island of Antikythera in 1900. Underwater archaeologists have been exploring the site ever since.

Divers lifting the base of a marble statue.
Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

The bearded statue’s head bears a strong resemblance to how Hercules was depicted in another statue, Farnese Hercules. This has led archaeologists to suggest that this “Hercules of Antikythera” head “probably” is related to a headless statue currently on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, excavated in 1900 by the original discoverers of the wreck. .

According to a press release from the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports, other findings from the expedition include the marble base and the statue’s bare lower human limbs that were covered in too much marine detritus to be properly identified.

Finding The Head
Divers looking for the head of a marble sculpture with facial features.
Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

They found two human teeth glued to a solid base containing traces of copper, and various objects from shipwrecks, such as bronze and iron keels, and anchors. Analysis of these artifacts will reveal much about the history of the debris, including the DNA of human teeth.

Close up of a human tooth found in a pile of rubble.
Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

“The main objective of the program is to produce a clearer and more rapid understanding of the condition of the ship, its trajectory, its cargo and wreckage,” the research team said in a blog post. “Genetic and isotopic analysis of teeth may be useful for extracting information about the genome and other characteristics related to the origin of the individuals to which they were related.”

Several expeditions had previously discovered the debris, including the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient Greek astronomical calculator with a sophisticated gear system that measured the motion of the planets and the Sun with the Earth at the center of the Solar System. allows it to be displayed as The phases of the moon, and the positions of the zodiacal constellations.

The latest mission was the second in a five-year research program by Greece’s Ephorate of Marine Antiquities, which runs until 2025. This particular operation was only possible when heavy rocks were removed from the wreck, exposing parts of the shipwreck that were not there before. has become accessible.

“The 2022 field research involved the relocation of selected large-scale natural boulders that partially covered the strait area during an event that is under investigation, each weighing up to 8.5 tons; their removal. provided access to a formerly unexplored part of the shipwreck,” the researchers said.

The artifacts were then moved from Antikythera to the Ephorate of Marine Antiquities and packaged as directed by the Ephorate’s Department of Conservation. Researchers are excited about what else they might discover from the ancient wreck, as expeditions from 1900–1901 and 1976 indicate that the ship was transporting luxury goods.

“We hope to locate and recover an assortment of artifacts,” he says on the expedition website. “There is a very real possibility of unimaginable discoveries, similar in importance to mechanisms.”

View of the head of the statue.
Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

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