By Petronella Sibeene
Namdeb geologists in their search for diamonds offshore stumbled upon a shipwreck that is believed to be the oldest in sub-Saharan Africa, dating back to 1400 or 1500 that marks a pivotal historical chapter.
According to Namdeb, early last month the head of the Namdeb’s Mineral Resource Department, Bob Burrell, found some rounded copper ingots and the remains of three bronze cannons.
This led to a halt in mining operations and the area was secured, with the appropriate permit from the National Heritage Council of Namibia.
With the support of Dr Bruno Werz, of the Southern Africa Institute of Maritime Archaeological Research, archeologist Dr Dieter Noli continued to uncover the hidden treasure.
“The site yielded a wealth of objects including six bronze cannons, several tonnes of copper, more than 50 elephant tusks, pewter tableware, navigational instruments, weapons and thousands of Spanish and Portuguese gold coins, minted in the late 1400s and early 1500s,” Namdeb said.
Namdeb added, “If the experts’ assessments are correct, the shipwreck could date back to the late 1400s or early 1500s, making it a discovery of global significance.”
It has not been established which ship this was but according to Namdeb, if the discovery proves to be a contemporary of the ships sailed by the likes of Bartholomew Diaz, Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus, it would be of immense national and international interest.
“The shipwreck holds more questions than answers. Like the mystery of how diamonds came to settle under the sands of Namibia’s coastline millions of years ago, this find has stirred the imagination as Namdeb and the Government work to unravel its many mysteries,” Namdeb added.
The shipwreck was discovered inside Namdeb’s Mining Area 1, only accessible with permits issued jointly by the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Government’s Protective Resources Unit.
Namdeb says the protective zone will ensure that the wreck is secure.