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Bones from Shipwreck May Shed Light on Ancient Greeks' Travel Habits

  • Reuters

Skeletal remains are seen at the bottom of the sea at the area of an ancient shipwreck near the island of Antikythera, Greece, Sept. 6, 2016.

Skeletal remains are seen at the bottom of the sea at the area of an ancient shipwreck near the island of Antikythera, Greece, Sept. 6, 2016.

Skeletal remains from a 2,000-year-old shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera are expected to reveal more about the sinking and could shed light on ancient travel habits, a culture ministry official said Tuesday.

Discovered in 1900, the wreck has so far unearthed treasures including an astronomical calculator, which researchers said in June may also have had a fortune-telling purpose.

Part of a skull and other bones found among ceramics during the latest excavations that ended last week belonged to a person who was in the ship's hold when it sank, the ministry said.

A diver works next to skeletal remains found at an ancient shipwreck near the island of Antikythera, Greece, Sept. 6, 2016.

A diver works next to skeletal remains found at an ancient shipwreck near the island of Antikythera, Greece, Sept. 6, 2016.

The position of the bones in relation to other findings nearby "reveal the ship's violent sinking," the ministry said.

DNA tests are expected to provide information on the drowned person's age and gender which, if female, would add to evidence that such ships carried passengers as well as cargo, said Ageliki G. Simosi, director of the ministry's department of Underwater Antiquities.

"The DNA results will [also] give us information on ... the way the person died, whether they were smashed by the ship's cargo," she told Reuters, adding the test results were expected next month.

Skeletons of five different people, including a woman, were discovered during excavations in 1900-1901 and in 1976, she said.

A sounding lead, used to measure the sea's depth, was also found. One had also been retrieved during the 1900-1901 excavation.

Simosi said the latest excavation, conducted 52 meters (170 feet) below the surface by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the culture ministry, had a lot more still to reveal.

"The area is difficult to approach and the conditions are tough ...," she said. "This shipwreck continuously reveals treasures and I believe that this is only the beginning."

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