One of the world’s most mysterious shipwrecks just got a new mystery added to its long and storied history. The 2000-year old shipwreck off the coast of Greece gained notoriety in 1901 when a strange clockwork device was found among its ruins. The Antikythera Mechanism, named for the island near which it was found, has been called the world’s first computer. Despite X-ray images and recreations, the device’s purpose and functions eluded scientists for decades. Earlier this year, however, a team of researchers managed to decipher some of the text stamped into the strange device and discovered that it is actually a mechanized astronomical calendar for charting phases of the Moon, planetary orbits, and eclipses.
Now, to add a deeper layer of the unknown to the infamous shipwreck on which the mechanism was found, a team of historians and archaeologists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) in Massachusetts has discovered the skeletal remains of one of the ship’s human crew. Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist, stated in a WHOI press release that this find will help scientists learn more about the people who created the mysterious Antikythera Mechanism:
With the Antikythera Shipwreck, we can now connect directly with this person who sailed and died aboard the Antikythera ship.
Part of the skull, several ribs, arm bones, and two femurs were found in the seabed underneath 50 meters of the Mediterranean Sea. The bones are quite a lucky find for archaeologists. Usually, ancient human remains decay or are eaten by marine life long before they can be found. This skeleton is in surprisingly good condition, and the skull fragment still contains three teeth.
What’s more promising is the fact that the skull fragment contains both petrous bones, the dense areas of the skull just behind the ears. This particular region of the skull is a veritable gold mine of DNA, and might allow scientists to learn more about the genetic makeup about the owner of these bones. Before that, Greek authorities will have to give permission to the research team behind this finding.