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French Artifacts and Weapons Discovered in Ship Wreckage off Florida Coast

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An assortment of weapons and maritime equipment has been salvaged from shipwreck debris fields of three vessels that researchers believe may have foundered off the coast of Florida around the 16 th or 17 th century.

The marine archaeology company Global Marine Exploration Inc. discovered the French artifacts in waters off Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean in May, says a story about the find on IBTimes UK. It’s possible the artifacts were associated with Protestant Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in France in the mid-1500s, IBTimes UK says, but the ships may not have been French in origin.

Propaganda print depicting Huguenot aggression against Catholics at sea, Horribles cruautés des Huguenots, 16th century.

Propaganda print depicting Huguenot aggression against Catholics at sea, Horribles cruautés des Huguenots, 16th century. ( public domain )

Global Marine Explorations didn’t announce the finds until recently to avoid people flocking to the site while company employees did the survey and research. Divers found many artifacts in the wrecks, including three highly ornate bronze cannons and an iron cannon, munitions, ballast, 12 anchors and a grinding wheel. They also found a marble of the French coat of arms of the era—the early colonial period.

The researchers believe the Huguenots may have taken the French emblem with them as a memorial to their country and king.

“We won't be 100 percent sure these are French artefacts until they are removed from the water, but it is a strong possibility as we have identified the coat of arms of the king of France and one of the cannon has markings liking it to the reign of King Henry II of France in 1548,” Global Marine Exploration chief executive officer Robert H. Pritchett told IBTimes UK.

The article explains that though the artifacts themselves are likely of French origin, they probably were not on French ships when they sank.  “Although initial findings suggested the possibility that these were the remains of the lost French ships commanded by Jean Ribault in 1565, subsequent physical evidence and historical research has contradicted this theory,” the article states.

Mr. Pritchett said it’s unlikely the names of the ships that the artifacts were on will ever be known. He said he’s certain they’re not two French ships that were lost and that his crew is trying to recover—Trinity and L’Emerillon.

One reason they know it’s not the French ships is because the cannons don’t match the ships’ manifests’ description of them. And also, the anchors are too big for the Trinity and L’Emerillon.

Catherine de Medici looks at Huguenots massacred in France, 1880 painting by Edouard Debat-Ponsan

Catherine de Medici looks at Huguenots massacred in France, 1880 painting by Edouard Debat-Ponsan ( Wikimedia Commons )

The team speculates that the three ships were English or Spanish in origins and their crews had taken on this cargo that had earlier been brought to Florida by the French settlers.

Of whatever origin or identity, the monument and cannons will help shed light about the history of Spanish and French pioneers in 16 th and 17 th century Florida, IBTimes UK says.

The Huguenot movement began in France in 1555, an offshoot of Protestantism based on Calvinism.

“The number and influence of the French Reformers (Huguenots) continued to increase after this event, leading to an escalation in hostility and conflict between the Catholic Church/State and the Huguenots. Finally, in 1562, some 1200 Huguenots were slain at Vassey, France, thus igniting the French Wars of Religion which would devastate France for the next thirty-five years,” says an article at the site The National Huguenot Society.

In 1598, the Edict of Nantes ended the religious wars, but they ignited again in 1685, when hundreds of thousands of the sect’s people fled France. They went to other European countries, the Americas and South Africa.

They were largely welcomed in their new homelands because many were artisans, crafters and other types of professions that accrued benefit to society.

“Their character and talents in the arts, sciences, and industry were such that they are generally felt to have been a substantial loss to the French society from which they had been forced to withdraw, and a corresponding gain to the communities and nations into which they settled,” the article states.

Top image: The royal French emblem the fleur-de-lis on a monument among the shipwreck debris. (Global Marine Excavation photo)

By Mark Miller

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