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Archaeologists Plan Rescue of Ancient Phoenician Shipwreck in Spain

Spanish archaeologists gear up for a daring expedition to recover a remarkable 2,500-year-old Phoenician shipwreck
Archaeologists in Spain gear up for a daring expedition to recover a remarkable 2,500-year-old Phoenician shipwreck. Credit: Graham Lees / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Archaeologists in Spain recently conducted a thorough study of a Phoenician shipwreck that is around 2,500 years old. Their aim is to devise a plan for safely rescuing the wreck from the sea before it is irreparably damaged by an impending storm.

This remarkable archaeological find, known as the Mazarron II, measures eight meters in length and was discovered off the coast of Mazarron, a municipality located in the southeastern Spanish region of Murcia. It represents an exceptional example of ancient maritime engineering.

A team of nine technicians from the University of Valencia dedicated 560 hours to meticulously examining the shipwreck. Equipped with scuba gear, they carried out their investigations over a period of more than two weeks this past June.

Their objective was to document all the cracks and openings in the ship’s structure, which currently rests at 60 meters (equivalent to 66 yards) near Mazarron’s Playa de la Isla.

Recommendations on how to safeguard and recover the shipwreck, potentially as early as next summer, are to be provided by a team of experts.

Importance of rescuing and preserving the Phoenician ship in Spain

Archaeologist Carlos de Juan, who oversaw the project at the University of Valencia Institute of Nautical Archaeology, suggests that the wreck could be carefully extracted, piece by piece, utilizing the existing cracks in its structure. Once retrieved, the ship could be reassembled outside of the water, much like solving a puzzle.

De Juan emphasized the importance of rescuing and preserving the ship for public enjoyment in a museum rather than constantly worrying about its vulnerability during severe storms.

The Phoenicians, originating from the coastal regions of present-day Lebanon and Syria, established colonies and trading posts across the Mediterranean between 1,500 BC and 300 BC.

The Mazarron II, likely built around 580 BC, has served as a valuable artifact for historians, shedding light on the Phoenicians’ transportation of metals, such as lead, from the Iberian Peninsula.

The accidental discovery of the shipwreck

For over two thousand years, the Phoenician shipwreck lay hidden beneath layers of sediment, undisturbed by the passage of time. However, approximately three decades ago, construction activities near the shore altered the sea currents, leading to the accidental discovery of the shipwreck.

Today, the ship rests peacefully beneath the surface of the Mediterranean waters, approximately 1.7 meters (5.6 feet) deep. To safeguard it, protective measures have been implemented, including the placement of sandbags and a metal structure.

Unfortunately, the metal structure intended to shield the shipwreck has encountered challenges. It is sinking into the sand at a faster rate than the wreck itself, posing a threat of potential damage. Consequently, the structure has undergone partial removal to avert any harm to the ancient vessel.

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