A recent discovery off the coast of Namibia is picture-perfect Hollywood — the only thing missing is a fictional fortune hunter ala Indiana Jones.
In 2008, diamond miners from De Beers took on the engineering task of prepping a potential site located just off-shore in a violent surf zone. The coastal region, notorious for shipwrecks over the centuries, can only be tamed by building a man-made sea wall, creating a lagoon, and then pumping out the remaining sea water. Once this feat was achieved, the miners noticed something unusual and called in archaeologist Dr. Dieter Noli to take a look.
“Having first started doing archaeological work … for the mine in 1996, I had at that point been preaching to them for a dozen years that ‘one day’ they would find a shipwreck, and to let me know when they do,” Noli told Foxnews.com. “When asked what exactly I was really expecting to find, I said ‘a Spanish sword and a bag of gold.’”
Over the ensuing days, Noli and his team discovered metal, wood, copper, the stock of a musket and cannons dating back to the 16th century. And then came the treasure chest.
“As luck would have it, we found the treasure chest on day six," he said. "Academic arguments are all very well, but once you have literally filled your hat with an 25.5 lb mixture of Spanish and Portuguese gold coins (there were indeed swords as well), the value of the site is no longer in doubt.”
The ship was eventually discovered to be "The Good Jesus," a Portuguese vessel that disappeared 500 years ago loaded with copper, tin, ivory tusks, and, in today's dollars, more than $13 million in gold and silver coins. Noli believes the addition of the copper, which deters sea organisms from "consuming" everything, likely led to the extreme preservation of the site.
In addition to the 2,000 gold coins and other artifacts, the team also uncovered five anchors, part of a ship's compass, pewter tableware, 50 elephant tusks and the skeletal remains of some crew members.
The wreck and its treasure, which now belong to Namibia after Portugal waived all rights, may eventually be featured in an on-site museum.