Thursday 15 May 2014

'Santa Maria Wreck' Looted

Reports are emerging that a team of underwater archaeologists headed by Barry Clifford have found remains which they claim were been part of Christopher Columbus’ flagship the Santa Maria, wrecked off the coast of Haiti in 1492. The site was first surveyed in 2003 but:
when Clifford and his team returned to the site earlier this month, their intention was to definitively identify the cannon and other surface artefacts that had been photographed back in 2003. But tragically all the key visible diagnostic objects including the cannon had been looted by illicit raiders" (The Independent).
As David Knell points out in his discussion of this (Santa Maria found - but recently looted Wednesday, 14 May 2014 ):
If the artefacts are still around, they are likely to be in a hidden collection of bits and bobs somewhere, utterly decontextualised and unrecognised for what they really are. Worse still, the wreck has been deprived of objects that may have helped to definitively identify it. Yet "treasure hunters" are urged to carry on looting by one blogger on the warped premise that "It's your history too!".
This is going to be a pattern repeated increasingly frequently in archaeology in the future. In the UK , with the number of artefact hunters in Britain equipped with metal detectors steadily increasing on the watch of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and a static or falling number of accessible sites containing a (finite) number of collectables, many sites have already had the bulk of the diagnostic finds stripped from their surface. Many sites have already been "hammered" in tekkie-lingo (that means heavily damaged in archaeological terms). More and more are archaeologists going to find certain research questions cannot be addressed or answered because the evidence was hoiked and scattered unrecorded by unknown persons at unknown times. And do any of them think about that or care? It would seem few do.

UPDATE 6th October 2014

BBC: 'Haiti wreck not Columbus flagship - UNESCO' 6th October 2014


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