Sunday, October 5, 2014

Astonishment in Athens

After our departure from Antikythera, Evan and I spent a couple days in Athens before flying back to the States. We both knew a visit to the National Archeological Museum in Athens to view the artifacts from Antikythera shipwreck, and the famed mechanism, was an essential part of the expedition. We also took the opportunity to visit the Acropolis and associated museum.

The Antikythera Mechanism

To ponder the intricacies of modern technology can be exhausting. To ponder the craftsmanship and mysteries of the Antikythera mechanism while actually standing in front of it are mind-boggling. No matter how many YouTube videos you watch, animations you see, or books you read, it is still incomprehensible how this undersized instrument was designed much less actually constructed. It is truly a modern marvel, ahead of its time by millennia in the time of antiquity.

Equally impressive to me were the bronze sculptures recovered off the wreck. I have read they represent some the greatest examples of bronze art from the Hellenistic era in all of history. Although time and tide have taken more of a toll, the marble statues recovered suggest equal artistic greatness.

Bronze statue of a youth recovered from the Antikythera shipwreck. (crafted circa 3340-330 BC)

Bronze portrait of a philosopher recovered from the Antikythera shipwreck (crafted circa 240 BC)

As the project comes to a close, I think back to 1900 when the first sponge diver, Ilias Stadiatis, descended 140ft in a hardhat and stumbled upon the largest collection of Greek treasures ever found. Bronze and marble statues of true artistic greatness lying silent on the seafloor. Like Ilias and the rest of the sponge divers a century ago, Cousteau and the crew of Calypso in 1976, and the handful of divers on this years Return to Antikythera expedition -  I have had the great fortune to dive and photograph true history. In the months ahead (until next year’s expedition) as I replay my limited dives on the Antikythera shipwreck I can’t help but think what if…

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