For archaeologists, it’s the underwater find that keeps on giving. A Roman-era cargo ship, discovered by chance off the Greek island of Antikythera more than 120 years ago and regarded as the world’s richest ancient shipwreck, has yielded yet more treasures in the most recent explorations of it, including the missing head of a statue of the demigod Hercules.
“In 1900, [sponge divers] pulled out the statue of Hercules [from the sea] and now in all probably we’ve found its head,” said Prof Lorenz Baumer, the classical archaeologist who is overseeing the underwater mission with the University of Geneva.
“It’s a most impressive marble piece,” he said, describing characteristics that bore all the hallmarks of one of the great heroic figures of Greek and Roman mythology. “It is twice lifesize, has a big beard, a very particular face and short hair. There is no doubt it is Hercules.”
The discovery of the sculpture – along with the plinth of another marble statue, human teeth and parts of the ship’s equipment – had been made possible by the removal of three 8.5-tontonne boulders that had partially covered the wreck at the bottom of the sea bed.