Archaeology: Lost face of Hercules REVEALED for first time in 2,000 years after wreck dive | Science | New

The decapitated body of the nine-foot-two-inch-tall statue was found and recovered from a shipwreck off the coast of the Greek the island of Antikythera in the years 1900-1901. The same wreck also provided the famous “Antikythera Mechanisma hand-operated mechanical device used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses in advance. The likeness of the mythological demigod – believed to have been made for a ‘very rich’ Roman — is thought to have been lost in the sea sometime during the first century BC.

The body of the statue is currently on display at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, which houses one of the richest collections of objects from Greek antiquity.

According to archaeologist and head of excavations Lorenz Baumer of the University of Geneva, the head was hidden by “an act of God”.

He said: “It was found, along with numerous other objects, in an area covered with several tons of rock that fell on the site during an earthquake at a date still unknown.”

“We gained access to this area by removing rocks using a sophisticated lifting system.”

Archaeologists believe the statute may have originally been intended for Rome.

Professor Baumer added: “The ship was carrying a huge cargo with, among other items, a large number of marble and bronze statues.

“In the 1st century BC, very wealthy Romans commissioned sculptures for their private gardens. They were delivered by ship to Rome or other destinations.

“The ship was heading west – as the material is from the eastern Mediterranean – probably towards Rome, but we have no evidence of this at this time.”

“The reason for the sinking could be a storm, but we hope to obtain clearer information through our research. We can only say that it was for sure a very expensive sculpture.

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The next step for the researchers will be to prove that the head indeed belongs to the decapitated sculpture in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Either way, the team is pretty sure the head was sculpted to represent Hercules.

Professor Baumer said: “Heracles, or Hercules, has a clear iconography, with his beard, the marked shapes of his face, his hair, his club, the lion’s skin, etc.

“We know of a few Roman copies of the original statue created by the Greek sculptor Lysippus in the 4th century BC, although the original is not preserved.”

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According to Professor Baumer, their investigation of the Antikythera wreck was motivated by a desire to learn more about the ship’s history.

The wreck was first discovered by a crew of sponge divers from the Greek island of Symi, who called at Antikythera to await more favorable winds en route to North Africa.

Artifacts were found at a depth of 148 feet below sea level, with the Hellenic Navy enlisted soon after the first finds to assist in rescue efforts.

The wreck has been explored several times since, notably by the famous French naval officer and divemaster Jacques Cousteau.



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