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500-year-old Portuguese shipwreck found off Oman

The 500-year-old wreckage of Portuguese ship piloted by an uncle of explorer Vasco da Gama has been found off the coast of Oman, archaeologists said Tuesday, a discovery that included the recovery of an incredibly rare coin.

500-year-old Portuguese shipwreck found off Oman
Archaeologists have found more than 2,800 artefacts at the site of the 
Esmeralda shipwreck off Al Hallaniyah island in Oman
[Credit: Blue Water Recoveries Ltd]
The Esmeralda sank during a violent storm near al-Hallaniyah Island in the Indian Ocean in May 1503, killing commander Vicente Sodre and all those aboard.

500-year-old Portuguese shipwreck found off Oman
The Esmeralda was captained by an uncle of Portugese explorer Vasco da Gama 
[Credit: David Mearns/National Geographic Creative]
Beginning in 2013, a team from the British company Blue Water Recoveries and the Oman Ministry of Heritage and Culture explored a site in the island's Ghubbat ar Rahib Bay. They later determined the debris found there came from the long-missing ship, one of two lost in the storm from da Gama's second voyage to India.

500-year-old Portuguese shipwreck found off Oman
An aerial overview of the wreck site just off Al Hallaniyah island in Oman 
[Credit: Blue Water Recoveries Ltd]
Among the stone shot, ceramics, a bell and other debris, divers discovered an incredibly rare silver coin called an Indio, of which only one other is known to exist today, said David L. Mearns, the director of Blue Water Recoveries. The coins were forged in 1499 after da Gama's first voyage to India, which helps date the wreckage, he said.

500-year-old Portuguese shipwreck found off Oman
Excavators use a vacuum hose to remove loose sand from the wreck 
[Credit: Blue Water Recoveries Ltd]
"That was an amazing discovery," Mearns said. "It was like a thing you read about in a Hollywood story."

500-year-old Portuguese shipwreck found off Oman
One of the many limestone cannon balls recovered from the site, many 
with the captain's initials VS, Vicente Sodre, carved on them 
[Credit: Blue Water Recoveries Ltd]
The archaeologists announced their findings in an article published Tuesday by The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

500-year-old Portuguese shipwreck found off Oman
A rare gold cruzado coid found in the wreck that helps 
date it to the time of da Gama's second voyage 
[Credit: Blue Water Recoveries Ltd]
Ayoub al-Busaidi, the supervisor of marine archaeology at the Oman Ministry of Heritage and Culture, said this marked the first underwater excavation carried out by his country. He said it inspired officials to continue to explore the waters around the sultanate for other finds.


"Oman is now looking at outside archives to read about the relationships and trade between Oman and the outside" world, al-Busaidi said.

Author: Jon Gambrell | Source: The Associated Press [March 15, 2016]
TANN

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