Namibia’s largest diamond miner, NamDeb, said its geologists have found the wreckage of an ancient ship laden with treasure, including six bronze cannons, thousands of Spanish and Portuguese gold coins and more than 50 elephant tusks.
NamDeb, owned 50-50 by the Namibian government and global diamond miner, De Beers, said it had discovered evidence of what might turn out to be the oldest sub-Saharan shipwreck.
The wreckage was discovered in the area behind a sea wall used to push back the Atlantic Ocean in order to search for diamonds in Namibia’s ‘Sperrgebeit’ or Forbidden Zone’.
NamDeb said that the shipwreck could date back to the late 1400 or early 1500, making it a discovery of global significance.
Geologists identified the cannons as Spanish Breach-loaders of a type popular in the early 1500s.
The site yielded a wealth of objects, including six bronze cannons, several tonnes of copper, over 50 elephant tusks, pewter tableware, navigational instruments, weapons, personal items and thousands of Spanish and Portuguese gold coins.
“All mining operations were halted, the site secured and Dr. Dieter Noli, an archaeological expert in the Sperrgebeit, was brought into the project and identified the cannons as Spanish breach loaders of a type popular in the 1500s,” NamDebs aid.
On April 1, Bob Burrell, NamDeb’s head of Mineral Resource Department, found some rounded copper ingots and the remains of three bronze cannons in the sand.
Most coins are of gold and all appear to have been mined in the late 1400s and 1500s. “This combined with all other evidence, raises the distinct possibility of the ship concerned having been a contemporary of those used by the likes of Diaz, Da Gama and Columbus – thus making the site of immense national and international importance,” NamDeb said.
Diamonds have been mined along the south-western coast of Namibia and in its coastal waters for the last 100 years.