After more than two centuries 30 feet under the Atlantic Ocean, two cannons raised Tuesday from a shipwreck have a new home: conservation vats behind the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum.
As visitors watched, they were lowered into fresh water to begin cleaning off concretion from weapons carried by a ship archaeologists believe could date from 1776 to 1810.
When the job is done, markings on weapons that weigh 1,200 to 1,800 pounds each could tell archaeologists what ship they were on when it sank. Until then, having weapons of war becoming tools of learning was "public archaeology at its best" in the museum's backyard, said spokesman Beau Philips.
"It was like Christmas come early to see how interested people were in history, the artifacts and the stories they will be able to tell," Philips said. "There was genuine excitement as the crowd gathered. They were hushed, then asked a lot of questions."
Part of a wreck discovered two years ago about a mile off St. Augustine's shorelines by the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, the cannons were lifted up just before noon Tuesday.