They recovered treasure from a Spanish shipwreck 350 years ago

(CNN) — Stories of buried treasures and Shipwrecks From pirate stories to Hollywood blockbusters, antiques have fascinated for centuries. However, for a team of explorers, the legend became reality when a treasure trove of artifacts including coins, precious stones and precious jewels that once belonged to sailors was discovered from a Spanish galleon that sunk 350 years ago.

The galleon Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas sank in 1656 when it collided with another ship in its fleet and struck a reef in the Bahamas. The ship contained a treasure trove, some of which was assigned as royal tribute to King Philip IV from Cuba to Seville, Spain. The 891-ton vessel was carrying a larger-than-usual cargo and was carrying treasure recovered from another ship that had sunk two years earlier.

Artist’s reconstruction of the Wonders built in 1647. Credit: Courtesy of the Bahamas Maritime Museum

There have already been several successful attempts to recover the ship’s cargo, with nearly 3.5 million items recovered between the 1650s and the 1990s, according to shipwreck expert Allen Exploration, which began a two-year expedition in 2020.

But the latest discoveries, new ones, are on display this month Bahamas Maritime Museum, offer a new perspective on life on board. Working with local divers, archaeologists and other experts, researchers are “working to piece together the mystery of how the ship capsized,” James Sinclair, the project’s marine archaeologist, said in a news release.

Using remote sensing technology such as sonar and magnetometers, Allen Exploration tracked “a long, winding trail of debris” scattered across an 8-mile stretch of seabed, founder Carl Allen added in a statement.


A glass wine bottle is one of the many items that shed light on life on board. Credit: Courtesy of the Bahamas Maritime Museum

Among the finds are a 1.76 meter long gold filigree chain and several gemstones that once belonged to the Knights of the Order of Santiago, a centuries-old religious and military order. Among the gold medallions are a large oval Colombian emerald and a dozen smaller emeralds, which experts believe may represent the 12 apostles with the cross of Santiago. Three other gentleman’s charms were also found, one in the shape of a gold scallop shell.

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“When we brought out the oval emerald and the gold medal, I felt the wind go out of me,” Allen said, “how these little medals survived in these rough waters and how we found them was a miracle. Wonderland.” “.

Other artifacts recovered shed light on the daily lives of Maravillas as they traveled through the “Spanish Golden Age,” including Chinese porcelain and olive jugs and a silver sword handle. Some of the galleon’s valuable contents may also have been smuggled “to facilitate illegal activities with Spanish merchants and officials,” Allen said.

Gold and emerald medallion belonging to the Knight of Santiago, with cross in center. Credit: Courtesy of the Bahamas Maritime Museum

Objects discovered by Allen’s team are on permanent display Bahamas Maritime Museum, It will open on August 8 in Freeport, the second largest city in the Caribbean.

And Sinclair thinks there are many more discoveries to be made.

“The ship may have been destroyed by salvage and hurricanes in the past … but we believe there are many more stories,” he said.

Esmond Harmon

"Entrepreneur. Social media advocate. Amateur travel guru. Freelance introvert. Thinker."

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