22 | AGO | 2019
Archeologists plumb Gulf of Mexico in search of Cortés’ sunken ships
The fieldwork, he said, began in early July, 2018, and is focusing on an area 10 kilometers square (about 4 square miles) in the old Villa Rica zone - Photo: Jonathan Kingston/INAH

Archeologists plumb Gulf of Mexico in search of Cortés’ sunken ships

26/06/2019
19:25
Newsroom
Mexico City
EFE
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Last May, the expedition found an European anchor dating back to the 15th century in Veracruz

Last year, Mexican and U.S. experts launched a search to find ships sunk five centuries ago by Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés in the incident marking the start of the conquest of the Americas which, for some, began the most significant cultural collision in world history.

The Underwater Archaeology Project in the Villa Rica was named after historian Francisco del Paso y Troncoso, who was a pioneer in underwater archaeology in Mexico, and is aimed at finding the oldest European shipwrecks in Mexican waters dating from 1519.

The new expedition is being directed by Dr. Robeto Junco, the head of the Underwater Archaeology Department at Mexico's National Authropology and History Institute (INAH) and underwater archaeologists Frederick Hanselmann and Christopher Horrel, with the University of Miami and the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), respectively.

Junco said that the INAH project uses a magnetometer and a sonar, among other high technology, and has been made possible with a grant from the National Geographic Society.

The fieldwork, he said, began in early July, 2018, and is focusing on an area 10 kilometers square (about 4 square miles) in the old Villa Rica zone in the waters off the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz.

The vessel used for the underwater search criss-crosses the area making parallel scans of the ocean bottom - between 2 and 15 meters (6.5 - 49 feet) underwater - in hopes of locating anomalies indicating the probable sites of historical objects, like ancient shipwrecks.

"The intensity and distribution of the ... variations (detected by the magnetometer) allow us to create a map and define sites of high potential, where we later dive and dig," said Junco in a statement released on Tuesday by INAH.

Junco and his colleagues said that some of the metal objects from shipwrecks that could be detected under the waves and beneath the ocean bottom could be nails, clips, anchors and other iron items, including rigging and ballast.

"We know from documents ... that Cortés didn't burn his ships - that's a myth created from references to Ancient Greece - but rather he took from them everything that could be useful to him and then perforated their hulls to sink them and eliminate the possibility that part of his troops might mutiny," said Junco.

According to various historians, Cortés brought 11 ships loaded with men and supplies to the Mexican coast in 1519 and sank 10 of them there but sent one back to Spain to give the authorities news of his situation and plans.

In the succeeding five centuries, only Del Paso y Troncoso had methodically scoured the ocean bottom for the missing fleet until now.

Earlier this year, the archeological expedition found an European anchor dating back to the 15th century in Veracruz. The naval object is made out of wood from an oak that is endemic to northern Spain, though experts warned that there was still no evidence that linked the anchor to the ships sunk by Hernán Cortés since there was plenty of maritime activity at that time.

In addition to the anchor found in May, the archeologists have marked 60 spots that presented “magnetic anomalies” and will thoroughly inspect each of them in July.

A special group will be assigned to the site where the anchor was found. Experts will look for the anchor ring and see if they can find the ship’s hull.

“If we can find one, we can find them all,” stated Junco in an interview.
 

Artículo

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 Veracruz15th century Spanish anchor found off the coast of Veracruz

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