By Hugo Gye - Daily Mail
The stunning treasures from a sunken Spanish galleon have been revealed for the first time after the ship was rediscovered nearly 400 years on from its wreck in the Gulf of Mexico.
The loss of the Buen Jesus y Nuestra Senora del Rosario along with seven other ships destroyed the Bank of Madrid - and even contributed to the collapse of the Spanish Empire.
Now deep-sea divers believe they have found its wreck 400m deep, with 17,000 objects on board revealing that it was carrying gold, pearls - and even parrots.
The discovery unveiled today gives a fascinating glimpse into the sometimes unexpected treasures which made the colonial economy run. The wreck site, around 400 miles from the Florida Keys, contains 39 gold bars, and nearly 1,200 silver pieces of eight.
More unusually, the site features more than 6,600 pearls being exported to Europe from the coast of Venezuela.
The gems came from a type of oyster which was unique to South America but which was nearly extinct by the early 17th century thanks to over-exploitation by colonial traders.
And it was not only wildlife to suffer from the oyster trade - 60,000 Caribbean natives are believed to have died while diving for pearls on behalf of the Spanish.
In addition to the precious metals and jewels, two bird's bones were found at the site, thought to have come from a blue-headed parrot.