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Undercovered: 500-Year-Old Shipwreck Filled With Gold Discovered in an African Desert

Welcome to Undercovered: our new daily feature bringing attention to excellent reporting and stories we feel deserve a larger audience.

A 500-year-old shipwreck was discovered buried in the desert sands in the African nation of Namibia. The remarkable discovery of the ship, which left port in 1533 with a consignment of Spanish gold and other wares, was the subject of a recent CNN report.

The Portuguese vessel Bom Jesus, which sail for India almost half a millennium ago, was discovered in April 2008 by diamond miners. Dieter Noli, the chief archeologist of the southern Africa Institute of Maritime Archaeological Research, told CNN:

We figured out the ship came in, it hit a rock and it leaned over. The superstructure started breaking up and the chest with the coins was in the captain’s cabin, and it broke free and fell to the bottom of the sea intact… In breaking up, a very heavy part of the side of the ship fell on that chest and bent some of the coins. You can see the force by which the chest was hit, but it also protected the chest.

Archeologists were able to identify the ship by dating the gold and silver stored in its treasure chests, and by comparing the cargo they found with manifest records from that period.

The finds were not limited to the contents of treasure chests. Noli told CNN that the Bom Jesus contained the three oldest astrolabes ever found on any shipwreck ever discovered, as well as a trove of 16th-century muskets, cannonballs, ingots, compasses, and swords.

You can view the complete report above.

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[image: screengrab via YouTube/CNN]

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