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Archaeological Study of Ancient Nautical Disasters


There are without a doubt thousands of shipwrecks underwater and on dry land; most of them are discovered by accident, although some have been deliberately sought. Here are some of the ancient shipwrecks that have been subjected to careful archaeological study.

1. Belitung Shipwreck

The Belitung Shipwreck is a 9th century shipwreck discovered in 1998 by a sea-cucumber diver. The wreck originated in Arabia or India, and lies in the South China Sea north of Belitung Island, Tanjung Pandan, Indonesia, approximately 17 meters below the current water line.

2. Iulia Felix

The Iulia Felix (also spelled Julia Felix) is the name of a Roman corbita that was wrecked in the Adriatic Sea six miles off the coast of the town of Grado during the last part of the 2nd century or first half of the 3rd century AD. 

3. LaBelle Shipwreck

The La Belle was one of the exploration ships of the French explorer La Salle, wrecked in Matagordo Bay, Texas in the 17th century. In this Articulations archaeological chat from 2001, excavator Barto Arnold discusses the La Belle, as well as the Denbigh, Port Royal, and Padre Islands shipwrecks.

4. Oranjemund Shipwreck

The Oranjemund Shipwreck was discovered on the Atlantic coast of Namibia by diamond miners. It turned out to be a 17th century Portuguese nau, wrecked in a storm on its India Route.

5. Quedagh Merchant

Investigating the Quedagh Merchant
(c) 2008 National Geographic

The Quedagh Merchant was an Armenian-owned ship with multinational backers,captured by the notorious Captain Kidd and scuttled off Catalina Island in the Caribbean. The Quedah Merchant was featured in National Geographic's Expedition Week.

6. Uluburun

Uluburun is the name of a Late Bronze Age ship, wrecked in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Turkey near Kas in the 14th century BC, six miles from the coast and 50 meters below the water's surface. Recent archaeological research suggests that this ship originated from the Canaanite town of Ugarit.

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