Quest to solve treasure ship riddle begins

By Werner Menges

The discovery of a treasure-laden shipwreck, estimated to be around 500 years old, in Namdeb's Mining Area 1 near Oranjemund early last month is only the first chapter in what could turn into a long slog of archaeological detective work to unravel the secrets of an ill-fated pioneer of sea travel off the Southern African coast.

The easy part of working on an archaeological site like this is the digging up of the site and recovering relevant material from it, archaeologist Dieter Noli, who played a leading part in the first examination of the wreck site in April, told The Namibian in a telephonic interview from Cape Town yesterday.

The hard work is analyzing what was found at the site, he said.

That is expected to be painstaking labor that could take months before it is even known what the real significance of the discovery is, he said. 

He is convinced, though, that he and his colleagues who will be helping to study the wreck and its contents will eventually be able to find out whose ship this was and what business it was on when it came to an end on that barren stretch of Namibian coastline, Noli indicated.

"We have to piece together the puzzle. It's a fascinating story," he said.

The discovery of the ship has been worldwide news, with Namdeb claiming in its announcement of the find last week that this may be the oldest sub-Saharan shipwreck ever discovered.

Portugal Namibia

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