15th century Spanish anchor found off the coast of Veracruz

The iron anchor’s shank is 2.59 meters long and both of its arms were kept in good conditions

15th century Spanish anchor found off the coast of Veracruz
According to doctor Roberto Junco Sánchez, head of INAH’s Underwater Archeology Subdirectorate (SAS), the anchor, which was found 12 meters below surface, is of European origin - Photo: INAH
English 07/05/2019 13:36 Newsroom Mexico City INAH Actualizada 13:36
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A group of experts from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have found an European anchor from the 15th century in Veracruz. The naval object is made out of wood from an oak that is endemic to northern Spain; however, the experts have warned that there is still no evidence that links the anchor to the vessels that were sunk in 1519 by Hernán Cortés.

According to doctor Roberto Junco Sánchez, head of INAH’s Underwater Archeology Subdirectorate (SAS), the anchor, which was found 12 meters below surface, is of European origin. The artifact was found under marine sediment, which kept it well preserved in spite of having been lost in the ocean for 500 years.

The iron anchor’s shank is 2.59 meters (8.5ft) long and both of its arms, of 33cms (13 inches) each, were kept in good conditions. Some wooden parts of the iron object are also intact, which allowed specialist to take samples and assess the anchor’s antiquity, as well as its place of origin.

“Knowing that the tree that was used to make the stock dates back to the 15th century, we conducted other analyses at INAH’s Archeobotany Lab, which showed that the oak tree was endemic to the Cantabrian coast in northern Spain,” stated Susana Xelhuantzi and José Luis Alvarado.

Despite the recent scientific discovery, the head of the Society for Archeological Sciences (SAS), co-leader of the project, along with submarine archeologists Christopher Horrell, Melanie Damour, and Frederick Hanselmann, from the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at the University of Texas and the University of Miami, claimed that there was still no evidence that the anchor belonged to any of the 10 ships that Cortés presumably sunk in 1519, nor to the ships of Pánfilo de Narváez or other Iberian explorers that sailed those waters in the 15th century.

According to documentary sources, the legendary conquistador Hernán Cortés scuttled nearly all of his ships to prevent some of his soldiers from rebelling against him and returning to Cuba. He sent the remaining ship–out of all 11 vessels that were part of his fleet–to Spain. Alonso Hernández and Francisco de Montejo were in charge of bringing the gold-filled ship back to Europe to win the favor of king Charles I of Spain.

Regarding the debate on whether Cortés scuttled or burned his ships, the archeologist pointed out that there was still no consensus on the matter, nor would there be until archeologists were able to find a shipwreck associated to the 10 ships that showed signs of either act.

“The fact that we were unable to find a shipwreck near the anchor makes us wonder how it ended up in there, or if it was somehow abandoned, despite the fact that these instruments were extremely expensive at the time,” stated doctor Melanie Damour.
 

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