Author Archive for Yanis Bitsakis

Ancient Skeleton discovered at the Antikythera Shipwreck


The “Return to Antikythera” international research team discovered a human skeleton during its ongoing excavation of the famous Antikythera Shipwreck (circa 65 B.C.). The shipwreck, which holds the remains of a Greek trading or cargo ship, is located off the Greek island of Antikythera in the Aegean Sea. The first skeleton recovered from the wreck site during the era of DNA analysis, this find could provide insight into the lives of people who lived 2100 years ago.

Led by archaeologists and technical experts from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the team excavated and recovered a human skull including a jaw and teeth, long bones of the arms and legs, ribs, and other remains. Other portions of the skeleton are still embedded in the seafloor, awaiting excavation during the next phase of operations.

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

The Antikythera Shipwreck is the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered, possibly a massive grain carrier. It was discovered and salvaged in 1900 by Greek sponge divers. In addition to dozens of marble statues and thousands of antiquities, their efforts produced the Antikythera Mechanism —an astounding artifact known as the world’s first computer. In 1976, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and the CALYPSO crew returned to the wreck and recovered nearly 300 more objects, including skeletal remains of the passengers and crew.

The skeleton discovered on August 31, 2016, is the first to be recovered from an ancient shipwreck since the advent of DNA studies. Ancient DNA expert Dr. Hannes Schroeder of the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, hastened to Antikythera to view the remains. Once permission is obtained from the Greek authorities, samples will be sent to his laboratory for a full suite of analyses. If enough viable DNA is preserved in the bones, it may be possible to identify the ethnicity and geographic origin of the shipwreck victim.

“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,” said Schroeder.

The Antikythera research team generates precise three-dimensional digital models of every artifact, allowing discoveries to be shared instantly and widely even if the objects remain on the sea floor. Several 3D models of the skeletal remains are available for researchers and the public to view on our devoted webpage.

Jonathan Knowles, Autodesk Explorer In Residence, said, “Our reality capture technology is not only helping share the amazing story of the Antikythera wreck with the world using digital models and 3D printed artifacts, it is enabling important preservation and furthering meaningful research.”

The project is supported by corporate partners Hublot (official diving watch and technical support), Autodesk, Cosmote (official telecommunication sponsor), Costa Navarino Resort (helicopter support) and private sponsors Swordspoint Foundation, Jane and James Orr, the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation, the Domestic Property Committee of Kythera and Antikythera, the Municipality of Kythera, and private sponsors of WHOI.

The research team consists of archaeologists Dr. Theotokis Theodoulou and Dr. Dimitris Kourkoumelis (Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports); Research Specialist Dr. Brendan Foley (WHOI); archaeologist Alexander Tourtas; professional technical divers Edward O’Brien (WHOI), Philip Short, Alexandros Sotiriou, Nikolas Giannoulakis, and Gemma Smith; videographer Evan Kovacs; documentary director Michalis Tsimperopoulos; supported by Michalis Kelaidis, Dimitris Romio, and Dimitris Manoliades. The robotic mapping survey was conducted by Prof. Stefan Williams, Dr. Oscar Pizarro, and Christian Lees from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, University of Sydney. U.S. National Parks Service underwater photographer Brett Seymour and archaeologist Dr. David Conlin volunteer their time and expertise.

The Return to Antikythera project is supervised by the Director of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities Dr. Aggeliki Simosi and is under the aegis of the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopios Pavlopoulos.

The people from Antikythera

The following text and photos were post by Tina Tavridou on her Facebook profile. We reproduce it here with her permission, since we think that people on the island is what matter the most. Looking forward to meet them all again in August and September!

“Spend three days on an island of 20 inhabitants and you get to meet them all. This album is a way to introduce the people of Antikythera to my friends in Greece and around the world and make their voices heard. Until next time!”

Fishing, livestock, musician
Wish: “It would be nice if we had visitors all year round. We are human in January and February, too!”

Myron (one more)
Restaurant owner, livestock
Wish: “That they think of us, that there is a doctor on the island, that they remember that there are people living on Antikythera, most of them over 50 years old.”

Fisherman from Kissamos, Crete, comes to Antikythera 40-50 times a year
Wish: “That there always are nice people -as there are- and fish!”

Wish: “That beautiful women come to our island all year round!”

Fishing, builder, assists ferry mooring and ticketing
Wish: “No wish, I’m fine”

Works for the Municipality
Wish: “That the ferry ran more often”

Andreas Harhalakis
Electricity plant technician, elected representative of the Municipality
Wish: “That our island is never depopulated”

Yiannis Glitsos
President for 18 years at the Association of Antikytherians “Saint Myron”, retired, spends about half the year on the island

Manolis Harhalakis
Forest ranger of Kythira and Antikythira, lived in Australia for 15 years, speaks perfect Aussie English
Wish: “Wishes for a beautiful summer to everyone, I wish people could plant trees, especially on Kythira and Antikythera, and protect them.”

Retired, spends about half the year on the island
Wish: “To have a doctor on the island and that it does not get depopulated. That we see as much as possible that there are visitors to liven it up.”

Retired sailor, hobbies hunting and fishing
Wish: “I wish our little island is never deserted and always has people; that the people in power do not forget us, because this is one of the small islands whose population will have an expiration date if we are not careful.”

Father Antonios
“The most important things are having a doctor and the ferry”.

Nikos Politis
Retired, Physics and IT, works with the site
Wish: “Concord”

Sofia Politou
Retired public servant, hobbies ceramics and hagiography
Wish: “Some more people”

Eirini Galanaki
Wish: “That the island came alive, that we had more people”.

Spent a month on the island hunting insects for a university disseration, I didn’t ask her for a wish since she is not local, just posting her photo because she is so lovely and everyone on the island will remember her and her butterfly net!

Penelope Harhalaki
Wish: “That our land is full of people, I remember in the old days there were 70 children at school, 800 people lived here, we had two priests, today there are almost no children at all.”

Mother of 4
Wish: “That there is transportation. And that we become volunteers in our own town otherwise there is no moving forward. To clean the street, the trail, to cut a branch that is sticking out, not to sit and wait for everything to be done by the state”.

2016 season starting

2016 diving season is starting. By Thursday, the whole team will be at Antikythera. The weather is improving. Check-out dives on Tuesday, dives on the wreck as soon as possible.

Stay tuned for more!


Diving support vessel MV Nikolas reaching Antikythera

Some photos from the arrival, by Michael Tsimperopoulos:

New Underwater Research at Antikythera

Before the 2016 “Return to Antikythera” season, a conference by Brendan Foley at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Date: Thursday, February 18th.
More details at the ASCSA website.

Academic event for the announcement of the results and findings of the excavation, as well as the future of the excavation

Upon completion of the first phase of the underwater excavation in Antikythera in 2014, the “Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation” hosts an academic event for the announcement of the results and findings of the excavation, as well as the future of the excavation.
An international team of scientists organized and implemented the “Return to Antikythera” Project in September and October 2014, headed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts, in collaboration with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, with the support of the “Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation” and other significant institutions.
The “Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation” supported the project throughout its duration, by putting the ship “GLAROS” at the disposal of the team for accommodation as well as logistical support on site; by aiding the research team wholeheartedly in preparing and carrying out the actual research and excavation.
The “Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation” will host an academic event on Wednesday, 10 December 2014, at 19.00 at its premises (36 2nd Merarchias St & Aktis Moutsopoulou, Piraeus), in order to present the results and findings of the excavation both to the academic community and to the public. The event will be broadcasted via live streaming on the Foundation’s website.
Addresses by:
  • Mr. Constantine Tasoulas, Minister of Culture and Sports
  • Mr. Efstratios Charchalakis, Mayor of Kythera and Antikythera
  • Mr. Mathias Buttet, R & D Director of Hublot.
The following speakers will present the history, results and future plans of the research:
  • Panagiotis C. Laskaridis, President of the “Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation”
  • Aggeliki Simosi, Director of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities
  • Theotokis Theodoulou, Maritime archaeologist in the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.
  • Brendan Foley, Co-Director of the field project. Research Specialist in the Deep Submergence Laboratory of WHOI’s Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering.
Our main aim is to incorporate the project’s results in the “Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation”’s educational programmes as well as in our publishing activity. Already the educational programmes of the Foundation include a programme on “The Antikythera Mechanism: Astronomy and Technology in Ancient Greece”, addressed to high school students.
The Antikythera Shipwreck, dating around 60 BC, is the richest ancient shipwreck to date and it was first discovered by Symian sponge divers in 1900. A host of impressive artifacts was recovered from the shipwreck, including the extraordinary Antikythera Mechanism, the oldest “computer”. Upon the finding of such treasures, global attention turned to Antikythera, fueling great expectations for new and exciting discoveries on the shipwreck site.
For further information on the event, please contact the “Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation”, tel.: 210 42 97 540, e-mail:

EG 2014

The “Return to Antikythera” expedition will be presented by Brendan Foley at the EG 2014 Conference in Monterey, California, on May 2. But there will also be another captivating presentation on the Antikythera Mechanism, by Michael Wright.

Details about the speakers here: