Uncovering a 500-Year-Old Shipwreck From the Golden Age of Exploration

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About 500 years after it sank to the bottom of the Arabian Sea, researchers believe they’ve found the Esmerelda, a ship that was in Vasco da Gama’s fleet during his second voyage to India. The excavation has so far yielded over 2,800 artifacts.

The Esmerelda, captained by da Gama’s own uncle Vincente Sodré, is the oldest recovered shipwreck from the Golden Age of Exploration. Among the artifacts are the ship’s bell, dozens of monogrammed stone cannonballs, and a rare silver coin called an Indio, which is only the second to ever be found. It was originally minted for trade between Portugal and India, but because it’s so rare, it’s sometimes known as the “ghost coin of Dom Manuel I,” Portugal’s king at the time. Though the ship was first located in 1998, the careful work of digging out these historical items didn’t begin until 2013.

Despite an estimated 20% of ships passing through the Carreira da India, a sea route to India that da Gama discovered by passing around the Cape of Good Hope, very few wrecks have been found or unearthed, making the Esmerelda a rare look into the earliest sparks of globalization.




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