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Newly Discovered Hercules Statue and Its Link to Antikythera Mechanism (PHOTOS)

Hercules had to perform 12 heroic labors to be absolved of his guilt and become immortal, as is very well known in Greek mythology. A recent discovery picks up the story, long after the end of Greek and Roman tales, to tell us a new version of its afterlife.

A likeness of the demigod of strength – who, according to the story, strangled a lion, beheaded a nine-headed undersea serpent and captured a man-eating boar, among other feats – lay on the seabed Aegean. Or at least his head was, according to the New York Times.

A team of experts searching for shipwreck off the coast of Greece, an excavation effort that took place from May 23 to June 15, unearthed what researchers believe is the marble head of a statue of Hercules from the Ancient Rome dating back around 2,000 years.

Finds from the Antikythera wreck included parts of marble statues, human teeth and bronze and iron nails, said Lorenz E. Baumer, a professor of archeology at the University of Geneva and one of the main researchers of the project.

This was the second season of excavations in a five-year programme, led by the Swiss School of Archeology in Greece, which aims to continue research at the site, which was first discovered in the early 1900s by Greek sponge divers.

Swiss School of Archeology in Greece/Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports

“Two thousand years is a very long time, but when you think in generations – 25-year generations – it comes to 80 generations,” Professor Baumer said. “It’s pretty close.”

The connection to ancient civilization excites researchers, he added: “That’s what’s fascinating about archaeology. You come into direct contact with people.

The discovery of the site is accidental. Antikythera is an island located between mainland Greece and Crete, its name referring to its location, south of the island of Kythera.

The Greek divers who found the wreck more than a century ago were collecting sponges and at first thought they had found corpses on the sea floor, but later realized they had found pieces of sculptures, Mr. Baumer said.

Since then, the site of Antikythera has yielded objects that have given insight into the history, economy, technology and art of ancient Rome. Researchers believe a device previously discovered there, named after the island, may have been used for navigation and astronomy; it has even been called “the first computer” by some researchers.

Getting to these elements turned out to be a Herculean task.

Considered one of the richest wrecks, the Antikythera had been hidden under rocks that weighed up to 8.5 tons and were said to have settled there during an earthquake some time after the sinking – but soon enough after to help preserve the artifacts.

Ropes attached to pressurized airbags, like underwater balloons, were used to lift the rocks and expose parts of the wreckage that had been blocked.

This is where the giant head supposed to represent the mythical hero was hidden, as if beaten down by the curse of the jealous goddess Hera, who would have made life difficult for him from birth.

The twice life-size head is that of a bearded man, and is covered in marine deposits that are being cleared so the piece can be restored.

The head likely complements another ancient statue discovered in 1900: “Heracles of Antikythera,” which currently sits without a head in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Baumer said. (Heracles, or Herakles, is the Greek name for Hercules.)

Four hours before divers discovered the marble head, Professor Baumer left the site to return to Athens.

He and a colleague stopped driving to look at photos of the sculpture. He celebrated not only the thrill of discovery, but what it meant for research to come.

Knowing the underwater location where the artifact was found gave explorers a better idea of ​​the layout of the wreckage, as earlier excavators had not documented where they discovered the statue’s body, a- he declared.

Experts are using 3D mapping to digitally document the wreckage’s appearance before any artifacts are removed, said Elisa Costa, a
postdoctoral researcher at the University of Venice who is part of the effort.

Her mapping captured every layer that was uncovered when the boulders were lifted, and she said she would continue to document the space around the site, which the team members believe could help explain the ‘wreck.

“It’s very exciting to be part of this important excavation project that started 120 years ago,” she said. “It’s really unbelievable.”

Swiss watchmaker Hublot created the balloon system that lifted the submerged rocks specifically for this project.

For next year’s excavations, the company is designing robots that can do some of the work of divers, Prof Baumer said, freeing up human divers to do more analytical work.

Due to the depths they explore, divers can only spend 30 minutes near the wreck (after a 15-minute descent) before having to slowly ascend for air.

Water pressure puts up five times more resistance to divers’ movements than people experience
land, Professor Baumer said.

For safety, divers never descend alone.

Each item extracted from the Antikythera wreck will be studied in an effort to piece together the history of the crew and the wreck, said Carlo Beltrame, professor of archeology at the University of Venice.

As a maritime archaeologist, he will use the finds to determine the type of ship that sank and its likely route.

Part of his role is to study the social and economic conditions of the time, around 60 BC. J.-C. And he is already asking questions.

“What kind of ship was it?” said Professor Beltrame. “What were the aspects of the ship’s traffic? Life on board the ship?

Details such as the size of the wooden planks used to build the ship led Professor Beltrame to say it was probably a large ship, he said. Teeth found in the wreckage this year could introduce researchers to the people who may have been on board.

If bones or other human remains were found, they could help establish the sex and age of passengers and crew.

Brendan Foley, a former researcher at the site who is a professor of archeology at Lund University in Sweden, said there may be more life-size sculptures of the wreckage, which he said was produced around 65 BC, when “this huge ship crashed into the cliff”. and collapsed on the steep slope.

He said he predicted the existence of some of the latest archaeological treasures, including the head of “Heracles”, from other discoveries in 2017.

Around the turn of the 20th century, divers found six bronze arms and a fragment of what was called the Antikythera Mechanism.

In 2017, they found a seventh arm and another piece of the tool, which they believe could have been used to track astronomical movements.

When the project ends in 2025, the team aims to publish its findings on the “Return to Antikythera”. But they believe there will be even more to find in the sinking.

It is possible that, deep in the waters, other mythical beings are waiting for their stories to be told.

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