Well-preserved human remains found from ancient shipwreck may help experts conduct DNA analysis

Well-preserved human remains found from ancient shipwreck may help experts conduct DNA analysis

Underwater archaeologists have discovered human remains considered to be of people who were aboard a large ship that sank off the Greek island of Antikythera in the Aegean Sea 2,100 years back. The remains are so well-preserved that scientists may be able to extract DNA and could come to know a lotabout the people who were present on the ship.

Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) was of the view that the Antikythera Shipwreck was discovered by Greek sponge divers in 1900. At that time, the divers discovered some artifacts, including a clockwork device. Since then, the shipwreck has attracted a lot of attention.

Later, a team of archeologists being led by WHOI scientists and researchers from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports visited the site to explore for more artifacts. There, the archaeologists came across a human skeleton.

Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with WHOI, said that they came across a partial skull, three teeth, leg and arm bones and pieces of rib. Foley said that out of all, the most exciting discovery was petrous bones, dense bones present behind the ear.

Hannes Schroeder from the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen said that they have to wait before carrying DNA extraction, as they still need to take permission from the Greek authorities.

It is considered that the remains are of a young man. Bring surrounded by the corroded iron objects, the bones also stained amber red. This aspect led researchers assume that the person might have been a slave.

With DNA analysis, the researchers will be able to know vital information about victim’s age and familial heritage and also, better unveil what exactly happened with the ship.

According to a report in CS Monitor by Eva Botkin-Kowacki, "Nearly 2,100 years ago, a large ship sank off the Greek island of Antikythera in the Aegean Sea, leaving its cargo scattered across the seafloor. Today, underwater archaeologists have found human remains, well-preserved enough that scientists may be able to extract DNA."

"Archaeologists study the human past through the objects our ancestors created," said Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), in a press release. "With the Antikythera Shipwreck, we can now connect directly with this person who sailed and died aboard the Antikythera ship."

Scientists note that it is rare for skeletons to be found in shipwrecks, as victims are usually swept away, decay, or are eaten by marine animals. But, as this was a particularly large ship, the victims may have been trapped below decks when their ship sank. DNA analysis could help sort out the victim's age and familial heritage and better paint a picture of the story of this ship's last voyage.

A report published in Huffington Post said, "In a find that could yield important new insights into life during ancient times, a human skeleton dating back more than two millennia has been recovered from the celebrated Antikythera shipwreck. Researchers found the skeleton last August during their ongoing excavation of the wreck, which lies on the ocean floor off the Greek island of Antikythera in the Aegean Sea."

“This is the most exciting scientific discovery we’ve made here,” Foley told the Guardian, adding that he believed the passenger or crew member “was trapped in the ship when it went down and he must have been buried very rapidly or the bones would have gone by now.”

If the research team, which is led by experts from Woods Hole and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, can recover DNA from the skeleton, they may be able to confirm the individual’s gender and hair and eye color, as well as his or her ethnicity and geographic origin, according to Nature.

Tags: