3,000-year-old wreck reveals its secrets
ONE of the world’s oldest shipwrecks has been discovered off the coast of South Devon after lying undisturbed on the seabed for more than 3,000 years, it emerged yesterday.
Experts believe the Bronze Age trading vessel sank in the English Channel as it carried an ‘extremely’ valuable cargo of tin and copper to the UK from Europe.
The wreck, dating to around 900BC, has now been found just 300 yards off the coast of Salcombe.
It measures 40ft long and up to 6ft wide and is made from planks of timber, and would have been powered by a crew of 15 sailors with paddles.
Cargo recovered so far includes 259 copper ingots and 27 tin ingots as well as a bronze leaf sword, several sling shots, and three gold bracelets.
Archaeologists have described the find as ‘incredibly exciting’ because it provides new evidence about Britain’s links with Europe in the Bronze Age.
It shows how people of the time were capable sailors and boat builders and experts from the University of Oxford are now carrying out further analysis of the cargo.
Archaeologists from the South West Maritime Archaeological Group have already recovered hundreds of artefacts weighing a total of more than 84kg.
Spokesman Mick Palmer said: ”For the British Isles, this is extremely important. This was a cargo trading vessel on a big scale. There is more down there and we will carry on searching for it. We anticipate a lot more will be found.”
Tin ingots from this period have never been found in Britain before and experts believe it may have been brought in from eastern Germany.
The wreck is lying in 10 metres of water in an area called Wash Gully and the ship may have sunk while attempting to land.
Dave Parham, senior lecturer in marine archaeology at Bournemouth University, said: ”What we are seeing is trade in action.
”We are not stuck with trying to work out trade based on a few deposits across a broader landscape. We are looking at the stuff actually on the boat being moved.
”Everything which is in the ship sinks with it and is on the seabed somewhere. What you would call this today is a bulk carrier.”
It was found between February and November last year, but the discovery was not announced until this month’s International Shipwreck Conference, in Plymouth.
The finds have been reported to both English Heritage and the Receiver of Wreck, which administers all shipwrecks and will handed to the British Museum next week.
Dr Stuart Needham, a Bronze Age archaeologist, said: ”This is genuinely exciting. There’s a complex lattice of interactions across Europe happening throughout this period.”
Ben Roberts, Bronze Age specialist at the British Museum, said: ”It is an incredibly exciting find.”