Researchers recently completed a third trip to a remarkable ancient shipwreck off the coast of Antikythera, a remote Greek Island.
The ship is more than 2,000 years old, and because of the wealth of treasures its sunken wreckage has revealed, archaeologists suggests the vessel was a sort of luxury ocean liner -- "the Titanic of the ancient world."
On their latest trip down to the rotting ribs of the ancient ship, divers surfaced with newfound treasures -- a table jug, a bronze spear, fragments of bronze and marble statues. Divers have been visiting the wreckage since 1900, when the ship was first discovered. More impressive treasures have been pulled from the ocean floor in years past -- intact marble statues of horses and warriors, jewelry, furniture, luxury glassware, and even a complex machine some have called the "world's first computer."
"I have personally investigated 40 or 45 shipwrecks throughout the Mediterranean and never seen one like this. It is full of luxury goods. It is an enormous ship, massively built and built of the highest quality material available in the first century BC," Brendan Foley, of the Woods Hole Oceonographic Institution in Massachusetts, told the Guardian.
Foley is one of the archaeologists working to further explore the sunken ocean liner. Both an international team of scientists and a Greek team of researchers have been revisiting the site, using special diving equipment enabling them to remain below the surface for up to three hours at a time.
The dive teams hope samples from in ship's giant lead anchors and hull can help archaeologists determine the ship's origin -- whether Italian, Roman or Hellenic.
The ship dates from 70 to 60 BCE, and researchers suggest the ship may have been carrying a bride and her dowry to be married. On its way from Asia Minor west to the burgeoning city of Rome -- quickly becoming the economic center of the ancient world -- the ship was likely smashed against the island's cliffs by a violent storm.
Foley told the Guardian the story of the bride is nothing more than a story -- "we have no evidence of that," he admitted. "A logical conclusion [of finds so far] is these are treasures, high-value goods traveling from the eastern Mediterranean, through the Aegean, to the growing centre [of Rome] but we don't have actual proof of that."
"Grain ships would sail out of Rome. They were the sort of first luxury liners. The wealthy would sail out in the spring, go to Egypt, tour the antiquities," explained Foley. "Then at the end of the season, they would get back on board the ship with hundreds and hundreds of tons of grain to take back to Rome to feed the burgeoning population."