Archeologists have been trying to recover ancient artifacts from the bottom of the Aegean Sea since sponge divers first found the more than 2,000-year-old shipwreck off the Greek island Antikythera in 1900. To date, they have recovered fragments of bronze statues, marble sculptures, gold jewelry and the Antikythera mechanism, a clock-like astronomical calculator that has been dubbed the world’s oldest computer. Jacques Cousteau and his team found a number of artifacts as well as human remains when they explored the area in the 1950s and 1970s.
However, no previous expedition had the Exosuit, a one-of-a-kind diving robot exoskeleton that weighs 530 lbs, and is capable of submerging to the depth of 1,000 feet and divers can remain underwater for hours without any risk of decompression sickness.
More on the Antikythera mission
“It’s likely that sediment will hold the kind of stuff we can’t even imagine,” Brendan Foley, a maritime archaeologist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and co-director of the project, said during an interview earlier this summer when the team was researching bioluminescent organisms off the coast of Rhode Island. “Our eyes light up thinking about it. It’s the kind of thing that wakes you up in the middle of the night. These are artifacts that have never been seen since the time of Caesar.”
The Antikythera wreck settled more than 200 feet below the surface around the 1st century B.C., but some of the cargo found dates to the 4th century B.C. Historians have suggested the boat may have been carrying loot from Greece to Rome around the time of Julius Caesar.
The Exosuit enables more thorough exploration
The robot exoskeleton Exosuit enables an archaeologist to much more effectively unearth artifacts that might tell more about the ship’s story. During an earlier expedition back in 2012, Foley and his colleagues used sonar to locate targets at the wreck site that could be huge statues, according to WHOI’s Oceanus magazine.
The team is also looking to research a second wreck nearby that could have been the Antikythera ship’s traveling companion. They are also planning to take a look at the bottom of an undersea cliff — around 400 feet deep — given additional artifacts from the wreck may have slipped over the edge of the cliff over time.
Nuytco Research manufactures the Exosuit, which includes has four 1.6-horsepower thrusters that move the suit up, down, forward, backward, right or left. Exosuit wearers do not have to worry about decompression sickness because the suit maintains surface air pressure. This adds an additional level of safety, as a diver can be pulled up to the surface in just a couple of minutes if there’s a problem.