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By Fiona Govan - The Telegraph
Almost four hundred years after its treasures were lost to the deep during a hurricane, the underwater exploration of a Spanish galleon has helped shed light on Spain's collapse as a colonial power.
Using a deep sea probe named Merlin, marine archaeologists discovered the bounty lost when a flotilla of merchant ships went down 400 miles off the Florida Keys killing some 500 on board including 121 missionaries.
The findings revealed today include 39 gold bars and 1,184 silver pieces of eight that were retrieved from the ocean floor by deep sea archaeologists, Odyssey Marine Exploration.
The Tampa-based company believe they located the wreck of the 117-ton merchant galleon Buen Jesus y Nuestra Senora del Rosario, one of 28 vessels sailing from the colony of Cumana, in what is now Venezuela, for Spain when it was hit by a hurricane.
Experts believe that the loss of the treasures helped break the Bank of Madrid, already weakened by a series of expensive wars and rising inflation.
"It is the most important Spanish galleon to be found because of what its loss meant," Sean Kingsley, a British archaeologist who has been studying the remains since 2005, told The Times.