Top 10 Underwater Discoveries of 2015
Treasures to be found at the depths of the oceans and seas captivate the mind and imagination. The play of light and dark under the waters also provides a beautiful backdrop to the ancient artifacts. Furthermore, underwater discoveries remind us that our world and cultures are constantly moving and changing. These are the Top Ten underwater discoveries that submerged us in wonder this year.
A wooden shipwreck believed to be one of King Henry V’s greatest ships was tentatively identified in the River Hamble in southern England in October. The 600-year-old warship, known as the Holigost (Holy Ghost) was commissioned by the king in his war against France.
It was spotted in an aerial photograph by British maritime historian, Dr Ian Friel. The faint U-shaped outline in the mud at the edge of the river has prompted an investigation using sonar, remote sensing, and drone equipment to create a computerized image of what lies beneath the mud. The location is just 50 meters (164 feet) from the wreck of Henry V’s flagship, The Grace Dieu, the largest ship in Europe at the time – it measures 66 meters (216.5 feet) long. However, archaeologists believe that the wreck of the Holy Ghost is likely to be better preserved than that of The Grace Dieu, and they are hoping that it could reveal a great deal about life aboard the ship, naval warfare, as well as 15th century shipbuilding.
An archaeological diving team in Finland found the wreck of the Hanneke Wrome , just south of the island of Jussarö in Finland. The ship sank with valuable cargo and some 200 passengers and crew on November 20, 1468. The shipwreck measures approximately 30 meters (98.4 feet) in length and consists of three relatively well-preserved sections of the frame made from oak planks. "There is a keel, mast and anchor, which is sticking out of the bottom of the upright,” said Koivusaari. “The anchor is fragile… It is exactly the kind of anchor used in the Hanseatic ships.”
Historic documents record the ship as carrying 10,000 gold coins, estimated to be worth around €50 million today. At the wreck, Koivusaari and his team found a barrel lid, roof tile pieces, and an unidentified lead object. He said that he is confident that the gold coins will also be retrieved in the future.
Artifacts from the Egyptian city of Thonis-Heracleion were displayed at an exhibition in Paris in September. The treasures included a fine sculpture of a pharaoh, a depiction of the god Osiris with golden eyes, ritual ceremonial barges, a black granite carving of a priest’s head, and a ceramic depicting Bes - a god who protected people against evil spirits.
The submerged ruins of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, disappeared in the 8th century after being struck by tidal waves caused by an earthquake. Liquefaction of the silt upon which the cities were built caused them to sink by around 12 feet (3.7 meters). Today, they are located beneath the surface in Aboukir Bay near Alexandria and their remains cover 40 square miles (110 square kilometers) of seabed. Within the submerged area there are probably two, or possibly three ancient cities, of which perhaps only 2% at most has been investigated so far.
Underwater archaeologists returned to the world-famous Antikythera shipwreck located off the island of Antikythera, Greece in the Aegean Sea, and discovered more than fifty new artifacts. Some of which include: the remains of a bone flute, a bronze armrest that may be part of a throne, a pawn from an ancient board game, luxury ceramics, and fine glassware.
This famous underwater archaeological site was thrown into the spotlight in 1900 when researchers discovered an incredible mechanical device, now known as the Antikythera mechanism. The discovery of this unique form of ancient technology, along with other treasures, including finely carved bronze and marble statues, glassware, jewelry, and coins, led researchers to wonder what else may lie within the shipwreck. Numerous divers have attempted to investigate the ancient shipwreck, but dangerous conditions caused by the extreme depth of the submerged vessel have hampered the investigation of the ancient site. This means that much of it still remains unexplored.
Siberian scientists made a discovery of a 2,500-year-old Saka settlement in up to 23 meters (75.5 feet) of water in Kyrgyzstan. Additionally, they may have happened upon evidence for the theory that an Armenian monastery was on this site in Medieval times -in the form of a piece of a large ceramic pot found in the lake with a stamp in Armenian and Syrian scripts. If it is true, and the Orthodox Church is right, the Armenian monastery’s presence would show that the remote Lake Issyk-Kul could also be the last resting place of evangelist St Matthew, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus.
Over 200 artifacts were raised from the lake, which was located on the ancient Old Silk Road, including “pieces of ceramics, whetstones for sharpening knives, a piece of bronze ritual sickle, and many pieces of slag and traces of casting production.” Dmitry Gorn, director of Tomsk scuba diving 'Club SKAT TSU', who led the diving team, also said that they found “a complete ceramic jar, supposedly belonging to Saka-Usun culture which was most likely used for rituals because it was found near a burial site.”
Geo-archaeologists working with other experts from Turkish and German institutions discovered the location of the lost island city of Kane, where Athenians and Spartans battled in 406 BC. Athens won the Battle of Arginusae, but its citizens tried and executed six of the eight victorious commanders for failing to aid the wounded and bury the dead.
The ancient city of Kane was on one of three Arginus Islands in the Aegean Sea off the west coast of Turkey. The exact location of the city was lost in antiquity because earth and silt displaced the water and connected the island to the mainland. Following its rediscovery, “the quality of the harbors in the ancient city of Kane was revealed. Also, the location of the third island, which was lost, has been identified.”
Manuel Cuevas is an entrepreneur and passionate independent researcher who believes he may have found evidence of the legendary civilization of Tartessos under flood sediment. Cuevas wrote a report providing the coordinates of what has been interpreted to be four large buildings and a town from at least 2,500 years ago. He also included a series of photographs, many of which are enhanced after being taken by satellite.
One of the structures detailed in his work is a building, or square surrounded by buildings, that measure 360 by 180 meters (1181 by 591 feet). Another reaches a size of about 180 by 100 meters (591 by 328 feet): unusual measurements for such ancient buildings. The ancient city would be located in the area of Pinar de La Algaida covering an area of about 8 square kilometers (5 square miles.) Other structures such as waterways, port jetties, remains of foundations and walls, and parallel lines and grids suggestive of city streets, have been detected. Cuevas believes all of these pre-date the Roman era and, based on the region and timeline, were likely the work of Tartessians.
At least 9,300 years ago, Stone Age hunter-gatherers in a now-submerged area accomplished a feat that even most modern humans could not do: They apparently cut a 15-ton limestone pillar with precision, drilled holes in it and transported it nearly 300 meters (984 feet). The monolith is 12 meters (39 feet) long and oceanographers studying the Mediterranean Sea floor in the Sicilian Channel between Tunisia and Sicily in 2012 found the monolith 40 meters (131 feet) deep.
Analysis of shell fragments, shows that the pillar has the same composition and age as nearby limestone. Seawater covered the area when the last Ice Age ended around 9,350 years ago, so the pillar is assumed to have been fashioned at least that long ago. The researchers say the discovery of this submerged pillar may require scholars to rethink the idea of “technological primitivism” among hunter-gatherers, and that “The monolith required cutting, extraction, transportation and installation, which undoubtedly reveals important technical skills and great engineering.”
Underwater explorers in Colombia found what they believe is the richest shipwreck in the world, The San Jose , a Spanish galleon blown up by the British about 300 years ago, killing most on board and sinking an estimated $1 billion worth of valuables. The ship’s cargo includes gems, jewelry, gold and silver. It went down in 1,000 feet (300 meters) of water.
The shipwreck was discovered near the port of Cartagena, a city on the Caribbean Sea on the north coast of South America. However, Colombian officials would not disclose the exact location of The San Jose , presumably to protect its contents from looters. Officials intend to build a museum to display the treasure.
A massive Bronze Age city was discovered submerged in the Aegean Sea by a team of experts while they were searching for evidence for the oldest village in Europe. The settlement dates back approximately 4,500 years and covers an area of 12 acres. It consists of stone defensive structures, paved surfaces, pathways, towers, pottery, tools, and other artifacts.
In total, more than 6,000 artifacts were pulled up from the ruins, which Professor Julien Beck, of the University of Geneva has called an “archaeologist’s paradise.” The obsidian blades are believed to have come from volcanic rock sourced at the island of Milos in the Cyclades archipelago, inhabited since the third millennium. The researchers hope that further investigations at and around Lambayanna may provide new insight into a dense network of coastal settlements spread throughout the Aegean Sea – including “trade, shipping, and day to day life from the period.” Speaking of the significance of the site, Beck said:
"The importance of our discovery is partly due to the large size. There must have been a brick superstructure above a stone foundation. The chances of finding such walls under water are extremely low. The full size of the facility is not yet known. We do not know why it is surrounded by fortifications."