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The 300-Year-Old “Holy Grail of Shipwrecks”

San Jose shipwreck
Photos of the 300-year-old San Jose shipwreck, thought to contain billions of dollars in treasure. Credit: Armada de la Republica de Colombia

Photos of the 300-year-old “holy grail of shipwrecks” that is thought to hold billions of dollars in gold and treasure have been recently released.

The massive Spanish San Jose, which went down off the coast of what is now Cartagena, Colombia, likely contains gold and silver coins, emeralds, Chinese ceramics, swords, and cannons valued at nearly $17 billion to $16.1 billion euros, Insider reported. That would make the multi-deck 64-gun vessel, which held 600 people, among the richest sunken ships ever discovered.

Colombian naval crews spotted the galleon cargo and warship in 2015, but for obvious reasons did not provide an exact location and did not previously reveal images of the sunken vessel. It was located via an unmanned submersible that dove more than 3,000 feet below the surface.

The British fleet sunk the San Jose in 1708 amid the War of the Spanish Succession, a decade-long battle over control of the Spanish empire. Some of the cannons aboard date back to the mid-1600s.

The Colombian army shared photos of the find after Colombian President Iván Duque showed images of the wreck at a press conference earlier this month.

Legal Battle for Valuable Shipwreck

Duque said “the idea is to recover it and to have sustainable financing mechanisms for future extractions” to protect the vessel and its treasure, Insider reported.

The wreck has been the subject of an ongoing legal battle between Colombia and Spain, The Economist previously reported. Ownership could also be contested by countries in South America from where some of the treasure was thought to have been stolen.

The Antikythera shipwreck

In 2022, scientists in Greece announced the discovery of what is thought to be Hercules’ marble head, human teeth, and other artifacts related to the sinking of the Antikythera ship.

The vessel is a Roman-era shipwreck from the first century BC, which has already yielded numerous statues, coins, and other artifacts dating back to the fourth century BC.
The new findings were discovered after massive rocks weighing several tons were lifted out of the sea and exposed parts of the shipwreck not visible to date.

The two human teeth were discovered on a solid agglomerate with traces of copper, which through its genetic material, will help determine the sex and other genetic characteristics of the person to whom they belonged.

The project on the Antikythera shipwreck began in 2012 and lasted until 2019. It was initiated and conducted by the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, which has been supervising the project and its expeditions since the beginning of 2021. The project is expected to continue until 2025 and is being coordinated by the University of Geneva and the Swiss School of Archaeology ιn Greece with the collaboration of scientific institutions in Greece, Switzerland, and Italy.

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