Photo: Skeletal remains at the site of the Antikythera Shipwreck: skull and long bones from arm and leg. Credit: Brett Seymour, EUA/WHOI/ARGO. A human skeleton dating to 2,000 years ago has just been found on the wreck of an ancient Greek merchant ship buried in pottery shards and sand, according to a news story published in Nature.
Usually sharks or other fish eat the bodies of shipwreck victims, or the remains are swept away and completely decay. This is why the skeleton of this victim, a young man, is incredibly rare and may become the first of its kind to yield DNA.
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“We’re thrilled,” Brendan Foley, an underwater archaeologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, and co-director of the excavations team, told Jo Marchant of Nature. “We don’t know of anything else like it.”
Foley contacted genetic expert Hannes Schroeder from the Natural History Museum of Denmark. Schroeder is awaiting approval from Greek authorities to begin the DNA analysis, which could reveal the victim’s hair and eye color, ancestry and more.
The shipwreck victim might have been a tech wizard of his time, as he was found with what is by far the most technologically sophisticated artifact to survive from antiquity: a clockwork device known as the Antikythera mechanism. The device modeled the motions of the sun, moon and planets with surprising accuracy.