Human Skeleton Discovered In Ancient Greek Shipwreck

Posted: Sep 20 2016, 1:28am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 20 2016, 1:39am CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Human Skeleton Discovered in Ancient Greek Shipwreck
Credit: Brett Seymour, EUA/WHOI/ARGO

2000-year-old human skeleton found in Antikythera Shipwreck could yield first DNA from an ancient shipwreck victim

Archeologists working on an ancient Greek shipwreck have just discovered a well-preserved human skeleton on the ship. The shipwreck has yield numerous artifacts as well as sophisticated technology before. This is the first human skeleton excavated in recent times from the famous shipwreck which has been lying on the ocean floor off Greek island of Antikythera in the Aegean Sea for more than 2000 years.

The team has discovered a partial human skull including a jaw and teeth, two arm bones, ribs and other remains on the ship and they are surprisingly in great condition. The DNA of the human remains can provide insight into the people traveling on the ship over 2000 years ago.

“Archaeologists study the human past through the objects our ancestors created," said Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). "With the Antikythera Shipwreck, we can now connect directly with this person who sailed and died aboard the Antikythera ship.”

Discovered by sponge divers in 1900, The Antikythera Shipwreck is the largest ancient shipwreck ever found. A powerful storm had possibly smashed the ship against the rocks. The ship then broke up and sank along with many people trapped inside the decks. 

Archeologists have already found dozens of statues, sculptures, coins, ceramics and a system dubbed Antikythera Mechanism which is possibly the world’s first computer during their excavation of the wreck. But another groundbreaking discovery has been made on August this year when researchers discovered a human skeleton on the wreckage. Finding a skeleton in the depths of ocean is a rarity indeed. Only a handful of human skeletons have been found on ancient wrecks. Bodies do not survive for decades as they are usually swept away or eaten by fish.

 "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.” Ancient DNA expert Dr. Hannes Schroeder of the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen said.

At first glance, the skeleton appears to be of a young man who could probably be a crew member. But DNA analysis is required to confirm the identity of the skeleton. 

Once permission is obtained from Greek authorities, researchers will send samples to the lab to conduct genetic analysis. If enough DNA is preserved in the bones, it could help identify the ethnicity and geographic origin of the shipwreck victim.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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