One of the most fascinating archeological discoveries of the past few years is the discovery of a ship that vanished five centuries ago and was discovered with gold coins aboard in a southwest African desert.
On Friday, March 7, 1533, a Portuguese ship sailed out of Lisbon. Its fate remained a mystery until 2008, when its bones were found during diamond mining operations in Namibia’s desert close to the country’s coast.
It was headed for India when a strong storm caused it to capsize, taking with it valuables including copper and gold ingots. Nearly all of the tens of thousands of pounds of copper ingots and two thousand pure gold pieces that were found on the ship were found undamaged.
In addition to money, the ship found in the desert carried significant cargo.
The Southern Africa Institute of Maritime Archaeological Research’s principal archaeologist, Dr. Noli, stated that finding a shipwreck was not unusual because the coastline has recently been known for storms.
But only a week into the excavation was a gold-filled treasure box discovered, and the coins within revealed it had originated from a Portuguese ship that had vanished in 1533.
It is thought to have sank during a storm off the coast of Namibia when it was dragged too close to land, forcing the ship’s hull to strike a rock and tilt over, capsizing the vessel. It reappeared in the desert as the waters off the shore retreated.
The state of the ship when it was discovered indicates that the storm that caused the shipwreck was very strong, but the fact that there are no human remains at the scene—aside from a few isolated bone fragments—indicates that the majority of the crew either perished at sea or escaped the wreck.
Dr. Noli told News Com, Australia, “It adds new meaning to the concept of the ship having been loaded with gold.”
Bronze bowls were discovered during additional research, and it was later discovered that the long metal poles were canons.
Along with the musket, which Dr. Noli’s team estimated to be at least 500 years old, they also discovered metal fragments that indicated a shipwreck was hidden in the sand. Compasses, swords, astrological instruments, cannons, and even a time capsule were discovered. Coins made of silver were also discovered.
Dr. Noli and other experts believe the ship was headed for Western India from its home port in Lisbon, Portugal, across the southern tip of Africa, based on the contents of the disaster. This path was frequently taken by comparable Portuguese ships carrying the same cargo at the time.
Currently, the most valuable and oldest shipwreck ever found off the Western coast of Sub-Saharan Africa is called the Bom Jesus.
Sperrgebiet, or “forbidden territory,” was the name given to the area where the ship was discovered since hundreds of German prospectors had been there in search of diamonds.
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According to CNN, the location is still mostly hidden and is the site of a cooperative effort between the Namibian government and the diamond corporation DeBeers.
Only a restricted number of people are permitted access to the shipwreck’s remains, which are still under mining security. A museum concept has been put forth, but it’s unclear if it will come to pass.