By Shameez Joubert
Archaeologists and the Namibian government are celebrating the discovery of a 500-year-old ship along its coast.
Originally scouting for diamonds, geologists from Namdeb – a joint venture between corporate giant De Beers Diamond Company and the Namibian government – stumbled across gold ingots and cannons after which they alerted archaeologists in the area.
Namdeb spokesman, Hilifa Mbako, told a Namibian newspaper that upon further investigation archaeologists uncovered many more of artefacts, including six bronze cannons and other weapons, several tonnes of copper, over 50 elephant tusks, pewter tableware, navigational instruments and Spanish and Portuguese gold coins, minted in the late 1400s and early 1500s. Archaeologist Dieter Noli told The Times that this was the richest gold discovery in Africa since a major ancient Egyptian find in the Valley of the Kings.
Noli, his team and Bruno Werz, an expert in the field, currently alternate between creating inventories for these finds in Namibia and doing the relevant research in Cape Town, in partnership with the National Heritage Council.
The relevant European governments have been alerted to the find. Noli and his team intend to eventually head off to Portugal and Spain in the hopes of uncovering records of the ship. This is likely because the ship held cargo of a significant value. “I told them sooner or later you’ll find a wreck; and I’ve been waiting patiently for the last 20 years…but now: jackpot,” Noli told The Times.
The Namibian government is excited about the find, as the wreck is said to be the oldest of its kind discovered in Sub-Saharan Africa, presenting various positive spin-offs for the Namibian government. Portuguese and Spanish gold, human remains and ornaments linked to royalty raised public speculation as to whether the ship may belong to Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz who disappeared off the Cape of Good Hope in the 1500s.