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Ancient Shipwreck Ladened with Gold Found in Diamond Mining Territory

Ancient Shipwreck Ladened with Gold Found in Diamond Mining Territory 6
  • An ancient shipwreck believed to be ‘The Bom Jesus’ was found in the sandy beach of Sperrgebiet or the ‘prohibited areain Namibia.
  • It was a 16th century Portuguese vessel carrying gold, ivory and loads of other treasures on its way to India, when it disappeared in 1533.
  • Miners recovered the ship’s gold while searching for diamonds in the area in 2008.

On April 1, 2008, miners working for Namdeb Diamond Corporation, a company owned by De Beers and the Namibian government, chanced upon several strange objects.

Unsure of what they have unearthed, the company called Dr. Dieter Noli, chief archaeologist of the Southern Africa Institute of Maritime Archaeological Research.

When he got the call, he immediately knew the workers stumbled upon a shipwreck.
Ancient Shipwreck Ladened with Gold Found in Diamond Mining Territory 7
Photo: Amy Toensing

The Namibian coastline is known for storms and treacherous seas, therefore; finding a shipwreck here was not entirely surprising for Dr. Noli.

“It just looked like a disturbed beach, but lying on it were bits and pieces,” said Dr. Noli when he first surveyed the area. “I thought ‘Oh, no no, this is definitely a shipwreck.”

But this was no ordinary vessel. In fact, archeologists believed it might be one of the most significant shipwrecks ever found. Very little of the original structure was left though, because it was extremely battered by the sea.

While bulldozing, the miners found metal, wood, and pipes buried in the dunes.
Ancient Shipwreck Ladened with Gold Found in Diamond Mining Territory 8Ancient Shipwreck Ladened with Gold Found in Diamond Mining Territory 9
Photo: Dieter Noli via AP
De Beers Group and the Namibian government run a joint operation of Sperrgebiet (a German term that means ‘prohibited area’), where they specifically found the wreck.
Ancient Shipwreck Ladened with Gold Found in Diamond Mining Territory 10Ancient Shipwreck Ladened with Gold Found in Diamond Mining Territory 11
Photo: Amy Toensing

In 1908, a German prospector found a diamond there. Eventually, hundreds more came to the region in search for diamonds. They even acquired 10,000 square miles of the desert, CNN reported. As the name suggests, the territory has been completely off-limits since then.

A week into the excavation, they found a treasure chest containing pure gold coins in mint condition. These coins gave Dr. Noli and his team a significant clue about the shipwreck.
Ancient Shipwreck Ladened with Gold Found in Diamond Mining Territory 12Ancient Shipwreck Ladened with Gold Found in Diamond Mining Territory 13
The coins dated between 1528 and 1538, and apparently came from Spain and Portugal.
Ancient Shipwreck Ladened with Gold Found in Diamond Mining Territory 14Ancient Shipwreck Ladened with Gold Found in Diamond Mining Territory 15
Photo: Supplied

“It adds new meaning to the concept of the ship having being loaded with gold,” Dr. Noli said.

Although the archeologists were not completely certain, evidence suggested that the shipwreck was The Bom Jesus (‘The Good Jesus’) that disappeared in 1533 on its way to India.
Ancient Shipwreck Ladened with Gold Found in Diamond Mining Territory 16Ancient Shipwreck Ladened with Gold Found in Diamond Mining Territory 17

According to History Collection, The Bom Jesus was a Portuguese East Indiaman that belonged to King Jaoa III and captained by Dom Francisco de Noronha.

It was a type of vessel used to travel back and forth from Europe to Asia. Aboard it were a total of 300 people including sailors, soldiers, merchants, slaves, priests, and aristocrats.

The team found various treasures including Portuguese silver coins, compasses,…

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