National Geographic : 2009 Oct
• realized it was a copper ingot. A strange trident- shaped mark on its weathered surface turned out to be the hallmark of Anton Fugger, one of Renaissance Europe s wealthiest nanciers. e ingot was the type traded for spices in the Indies in the rst half of the 16th century. Archaeologists would later find a stagger- ing 22 tons of these ingots beneath the sand, as well as cannon and swords, ivory and astro- labes, muskets and chain mail---thousands of artifacts in all. And gold, of course, stfuls of gold: more than 2,000 beautiful, heavy coins--- mainly Spanish excelentes bearing the likenesses of Ferdinand and Isabella, but also a smattering of Venetian, Moorish, French, and other coin- age, as well as exquisite portugueses with the coat of arms of King João III. It is by far the oldest shipwreck ever found on the coast of sub-Saharan Africa, and the rich- est. Its dollar value is anyone s guess, but none of its treasures have red the imaginations of the world s archaeologists as much as the wreck itself: a Portuguese East Indiaman from the 1530s, the heart of the age of discovery, with its cargo of treasure and trade goods intact, having lain untouched and unsuspected in these sands for nearly 500 years. " is is a priceless opportunity," says Fran- cisco Alves, the doyen of Portuguese mari- time archaeologists and the head of nautical archaeology under the Ministry of Culture. "We know so little about these great old ships. Wr ite r R o Smith lives, and weathers storms, on the coast of England. Photographer Amy Toensing o en covers remote outposts for National Geographic. Artist Jon Foster is best known for illustrating works of science ction and fantasy.