Bronze Age shipwreck loaded with jewellery is found off Devon

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The site of a Bronze Age shipwreck, loaded with French-made weapons and jewellery, found off the coast of Devon, has been hailed as the most important prehistoric find of its kind for 30 years.

The site of a Bronze Age shipwreck, loaded with French-made weapons and jewellery, found off the coast of Devon, has been hailed as the most important prehistoric find of its kind for 30 years.

The discovery, half a mile out to sea near Salcombe, sheds new light on Britain's overseas trade 3,350 years ago.

A team of amateur marine archaeologists, the South West Maritime Archaeological Group, found at least two dozen French-made weapons, tools and pieces of gold and bronze jewellery beneath 18 metres of water.

Although the boat itself has long since rotted, the French imports survived extremely well. They include a solid gold neck ring, a gold bracelet, three bronze rapiers, three spear heads, three axe heads, several dagger blades, an arrow head and part of a bronze cauldron.

Chris Yates, one of the archaeologists, described the discovery as extremely exciting. He said: "We are now working with the Receiver of Wreck and English Heritage to ensure that these important artefacts are put on permanent display."

The curator of Bronze Age collections at the British Museum, Stuart Needham, said: "The evidence from Salcombe and other rare sites, such as Langdon Bay, Kent, help us to build up a picture of object movements, the organisation of trade, and the character of seafaring."

Only three other Bronze Age shipwreck sites are known in British waters - another site near Salcombe, one off East Anglia and one off Dover.

Based on other finds, the boat which came to grief off Salcombe 33 centuries ago was probably at least a dozen metres long, more than two metres wide and built of oak planks sewn together with yew withies, made watertight with moss and beeswax. It might not have sunk, but merely broken up or capsized.

There is a dangerous reef 600 metres to the west and this may conceivably have been responsible for the vessel's demise.

During the Bronze Age thousands of tons of bronze - and lots of gold as well - were imported into mainland Britain from France and Ireland. The evidence suggests that there were a number of major trading centres along the south coast of Britain. The latest discovery suggests that Salcombe's impressive natural harbour was much more important in prehistoric times than previously thought.

The finds have been brought up from the seabed over the past six months and were reported to English Heritage and declared to the Receiver of Wreck at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The South West Maritime archaeologists found the shipwreck site while they were investigating another wreck site dating from the 17th century which has already yielded the largest collection of 17th century Moroccan gold coins found in Europe, together with numerous items of jewellery and personal effects.

Comments