Finding Shipwrecks: New Technology Leading to Massive Underwater Discoveries

Approximately 675 shipping containers are lost at sea every year. Though these continuers typically carry very important and valuable goods, everything from nonperishable foods to luxury pieces of art, rarely does a loss of cargo contain any 800-year-old items or billions of dollars worth of treasures. 

According to Express, an 800-year-old “Made in China” label has revealed the lost history of a shipwreck and all its valuable cargo. The wooden ship, which was carrying luxury ceramics, was traveling across the coast of Indonesia and sank hundreds of years ago in the Java Sea.

The wooden ship had disintegrated over time but thousands of luxury goods for trade remained on the ocean floor until the 1980s, when fishermen located the wreck. Since then, however, archaeologists have been examining all the artifacts retrieved from the wreck in an attempt to identify where and when the ship department.

New findings were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

“Eight hundred years ago, someone put a label on these ceramics that essentially says ‘Made in China,'” said Doctor Lisa Niziolek, archaeologist at the Field Museum in Chicago and study lead author. “Because of the particular place mentioned, we’re able to date this shipwreck better.”

The ceramics were marked with an inscription that potentially indicated they were constructed in a government district in China, Jianning Fu. However, after the Mongols invaded Jianning Fu in the 1200s, the area was reclassified as Jianning Lu. The name change prompted Dr. Niziolek and her collogues to suspect the shipwreck could have occurred as early as 1162.

In a similar vain, a robot submarine has discovered what is being called the “holy grail of shipwrecks.”

According to CBS News, the Remus 6000, an underwater robot that can descend nearly four miles discovered a 310-year-old Spanish shipwreck carrying treasure that could potentially be worth up to $17 billion.

The wreck was found at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea. Bronze cannons engraved with dolphins proved that the cargo belonged to the Spanish galleon San Jose. The Remus 6000, operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, discovered the ship and its contents almost 2,000 feet below the surface.

“It’s really great that we’re able to use new technology to re-examine really old materials,” added Dr. Niziolek. “These collections have a lot of stories to tell and should not be entirely discounted.”

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