Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bronze Age Shipwreck found off S. England

From the Telegraph:

One of the world's oldest shipwrecks has been discovered off the coast of Devon after lying on the seabed for almost 3,000 years.

The trading vessel was carrying an extremely valuable cargo of tin and hundreds of copper ingots from the Continent when it sank.

Experts say the "incredibly exciting" discovery provides new evidence about the extent and sophistication of Britain's links with Europe in the Bronze Age as well as the remarkable seafaring abilities of the people during the period.

Archaeologists have described the vessel, which is thought to date back to around 900BC, as being a "bulk carrier" of its age.

The copper and tin would have been used for making bronze – the primary product of the period which was used in the manufacture of not only weapons, but also tools, jewellery, ornaments and other items.

Archaeologists believe the copper – and possibly the tin – was being imported into Britain and originated in a number of different countries throughout Europe, rather than from a single source, demonstrating the existence of a complex network of trade routes across the Continent. . . .

The cargo recovered includes 259 copper ingots and 27 tin ingots. Also found was a bronze leaf sword, two stone artefacts that could have been sling shots, and three gold wrist torcs – or bracelets.

The team have yet to uncover any of the vessel's structure, which is likely to have eroded away. However, experts believe it would have been up to 40ft long and up to 6ft wide, and have been constructed of planks of timber, or a wooden frame with a hide hull. It would have had a crew of around 15 and been powered by paddles.

The picture shows a gold wrist torc on the seabed. Flash player presentation of lots of pictures here.

The bronze age history of western Europe is fascinating. The world seems more cosmopolitan than the early iron age that followed, with stronger ties to the Mediterranean and a wealth that was invested in wonderful monuments.

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