2000-Year-Old Skeleton Found on Antikythera Shipwreck

A research team recovered a 2000-year-old human skeleton from the ancient Greek shipwreck near Antikythera, the journal Nature announced on Monday.

Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) made the discovery on August 31 during their ongoing excavation of the famed wreck, which was found in 1900.

They discovered the human remains buried under about half a meter of potsherds and sand. The team excavated a partial skull with three teeth, arm and leg bones and several ribs.

“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,” Dr. Hannes Schroeder of the Natural History Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark said in a press release.

It is the first skeleton recovered from an ancient shipwreck during the era of DNA sequencing.

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

Initial examinations suggest the remains belong to a young man, according to the International Business Times. It reported he could have been a crewmember, passenger, or slave as people who are chained up often get stuck in shipwrecks.

Foley told the Guardian he believes the individual was trapped in the ship when it went down.

“He must have been buried very rapidly or the bones would have gone by now,” he said.

Meanwhile, researchers only excavated a portion of the bones as there are still some embedded in the seafloor.

On the other hand, Greek authorities have to first grant permission for the DNA extraction of the findings. Then, it would take around a week to know if the sample contains any DNA. If it does, sequencing it and analyzing the results will require a couple of months, Schroeder said, according to Nature.

Recovering DNA may allow researchers to identify the individual’s gender, hair and eye color, as well as, his or her ethnicity and geographic origin, according to the journal.

About Melody Chan

AvatarMelody is an avid fan of traveling. Although she thinks the packing and unpacking process is tedious, she believes the ability to enlighten herself while visiting new places is all worth it. She has already fallen in love with the idea of one day seeing the whole world. She knows that the world's beauty extends further than what a lens can show and is so much more than just words painted on a page. But when she's not traveling, she'll have to settle for her favorite pastime, writing. She is an aspiring screenwriter and journalist.

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