Archaeology: Greece, Antikythera shipwreck on display

Famous, mysterious ''mechanism'' among finds

06 March, 15:17

The famous and mysterious Antykithera Mechanism The famous and mysterious Antykithera Mechanism

(ANSAmed) - ATHENS, MARCH 6 - Over a century after the wreckage of Antikythera was found by chance (as often happens in the field of archaeology), the archaeological finds brought to light will be showcased together in the exhibition ''The Antikythera Shipwreck: the ship - the treasures - the Mechanism'' organised by Greece's National Archaeological Museum. The show will be inaugurated on April 5 and will remain open until the end of April 2013. It boasts 378 finds, including sculptures, clay and bronze vases, coins, jewels, fragments of the ship, and, of course, the famous Antikythera Mechanism, considered the oldest computer ever made. ''The oldest example of technology surviving to the present day, which entirely changes our knowledge about ancient Greek technology,'' the British physicist and mathematician Derek De Solla Price said in speaking about this mysterious object, of which he is its first scholar. Among the finds to be exhibited in the show are also dishes, jugs and amphorae with an acute base for the transporting of the water, oil, wine and dry food necessary for lengthy journeys.

Among the sculptures will be a life-size (1.93 metres high) statue of Hermes thought to be from the first century B.C., on which erosion from its lengthy stay under water is visible. The statue was likely to have been made by artists from the Polyclitus school, such as Cleon, Alypos and Polyclitus III. The bronze original has been dated at around 360-350 B.C. The director of the National Archaeological Museum, Nikos Kaltsas, speaking to the weekly To Vima on the ship's load, said that the ship had been carrying ''decorations for the villa of a wealthy Roman or objects intended to be sold. This is shown by the refined taste of those who had ordered them, or by their potential buyers. It would also mark the first known trade in art works, a phenomenon which was later to reach vast proportions in Western civilisation.'' The marble sculpture surfacing in the Antikythera wreckage can be divided into four categories on the basis of their style: the first includes copies of sculptures or variants on important works from classical antiquity. The second are classical creations combining elements and compositions from different periods, enriched with the features of Hellenic art. The third includes works intensely reminiscent of creations from the early and middle Hellenic period, and the fourth original creations from the late Hellenic one.

The wreckage was found by chance by a group of sponge fishermen who, due to rough seas, were forced to stop on the island of Antikythera, in the southern Peloponnese, to await the return of better weather conditions. It was on Good Tuesday of the Easter holiday period in 1900 when one of the group, named Ilias Lykopantis, dived into the water in search of sponges. About 50 metres down, the man found himself before a wreckage with its load scattered around it. The ship had gone down between 50 and 60 B.C. . The first finds were brought to the surface between 1900 and 1901, and all the others at a much later date (1976) with the help of the French explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau's oceanographic ship Calypso. (ANSAmed).

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