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They recovered a treasure in a Spanish shipwreck 350 years ago

They recovered a treasure in a Spanish shipwreck 350 years ago

(CNN) – Stories of buried treasures and shipwrecks Antiques have captivated for centuries, from pirate stories to Hollywood movies. However, for a team of explorers, the legend became a reality when they discovered a treasure trove of artifacts from a Spanish ship that sank 350 years ago, including priceless coins, gems, and jewelry that once belonged to masters of seafarers.

The Galleon Nuestra Senora de las Maravillas sank in 1656 after colliding with another ship in her fleet and crashing into a reef off the Bahamas. The ship carried spoils of treasure, some of which were set aside as a royal tax for King Philip IV, from Cuba to Seville, Spain. The 891-ton ship had more tonnage than usual, having also been tasked with transporting treasure recovered from another ship that sank two years ago.

Artist’s reconstruction of Our Lady of Wonders, built in 1647. Credit: Courtesy of the Bahamas Maritime Museum

There have already been several successful attempts to recover the ship’s tonnage, with nearly 3.5 million pieces recovered between the 1650s and 1990s, according to shipwreck specialist Allen Exploration, who carried out a two-year expedition that began in 2020.

But the latest discoveries presented this month in the new The Bahamas Maritime MuseumOffers a new view of life on board. In collaboration with local divers, archaeologists and other experts, the researchers are also working to “assemble the mystery of how the ship capsized and collapsed,” project marine archaeologist James Sinclair said in a press release.

Using remote sensing technology such as sonar and magnetometers, Allen Exploration tracks a long and winding trail of debris strewn across an 8-mile stretch of the sea floor, founder Carl Allen added in a statement.


A glass bottle of wine, one of the many things that shed light on life on board. Credit: Courtesy of The Bahamas Maritime Museum

Among the finds are a 1.76-meter gold filigree chain and several gems that once belonged to knights of the Order of Santiago, a centuries-old religious and military order. One gold pendant features a large oval Colombian emerald and dozens of smaller emeralds, which experts believe may represent the Twelve Apostles, along with the Santiago Cross. The charms of three noble men were also discovered, including one in the shape of a golden shell.

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“When we brought the oval emerald and gold necklace, I could feel the wind coming out of me,” Allen said, adding, “How these little pendants survived in these rough waters, and how we were able to find them, is a miracle of wonders.”

Other recovered artifacts shed light on the daily life of the Maravillas ship, which sailed during the “Spanish Golden Age,” including china and olive jugs, as well as the handle of a silver sword. Allen said that some of the valuable contents of the Galleon may have been smuggled in order to “illegally facilitate proceedings with Spanish merchants and officials”.

A gold and emerald necklace belonging to a Knight of the Order of Santiago, with a Santiago cross in the center. Credit: Courtesy of The Bahamas Maritime Museum

Objects discovered by the Allen team will be permanently displayed in a file The Bahamas Maritime Museum, Which will open on August 8 in Freeport, the second largest city in the Caribbean nation.

Sinclair believes there is still more discovery to be made.

“The ship may have been destroyed by salvage and hurricanes in the past… but we are convinced there are more stories out there,” he said.