Archaeologists to raise 17th century shipwreck

shipwreck, Mary Rose
The shipwreck of a 17th century merchant vessel off the coast of England is going to be raised from the sea, the BBC reports.

An armed merchant vessel that plied the high seas sank in the Swash Channel off the coast of Dorset more than 300 years ago. Underwater archaeology teams have been studying the wreck and have found cannon, pottery, and an intriguing face of a man carved into the rudder. Their work has had to speed up as sediment is eroding away, leaving the old wood exposed to decay and attack by shipworms, which cut holes into the wood.

Researchers have decided the only thing to do is to raise the ship out of the water and conserve the wood for future study. Sadly, some of the ship is so decayed that it will have to be left on the sea bottom. It will be reburied in sediment to prevent further decay.

The salvage operation planned for this summer is going to be a tricky one. A ship hasn’t been raised from UK waters since the Mary Rose was brought to the surface in 1982. This 16th century warship, shown here in a Wikimedia Commons image, is now the subject of its own museum in Portsmouth, England.

While historic shipwrecks are often taken to the surface to be studied and conserved, or their locations kept secret to avoid looting, the shipwreck of Captain Kidd’s pirate ship will become an underwater museum.

Pylon from Cleopatra’s temple raised from the sea

Archaeologists have pulled a massive pylon from the bay of Alexandria, Egypt, that was once a part Cleopatra’s royal complex.

The pylon, a pillar of red granite measuring 2.2 meters long and weighing nine tons, formed part of the temple of Isis and stood right next to Cleopatra’s mausoleum in the year 30 BC. These and other building sank into the harbor during a series of earthquakes more than a thousand years ago.

Unfortunately it looks like Cleopatra’s mausoleum doesn’t contain Cleopatra’s body, so don’t expect some Generation-X Howard Carter to supply us with another treasure of Tutankhamen. It appears that priests took her body inland so she could rest beside her lover Marc Anthony in some unknown location.

The block is interesting in that it shows an Egyptian style despite the fact that Cleopatra was part of the Ptolemaic dynasty, founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals. By Cleopatra’s reign (51-30 BC) Egypt had been under heavy Greek and Roman influence for centuries. Apparently the famous female pharaoh wanted to keep an Egyptian identity, as can be seen in this statue of her as an Egyptian goddess.

The pylon and other artifacts from the sunken royal district may end up in a planned underwater museum that Egypt wants to build in Alexandria. Archaeologists have discovered a whole city graced with 26 sphinxes, countless statues and fragments of architecture, and ancient shipwrecks.

Don’t wait until the new museum is built to see Alexandria. There’s plenty more to experience in one of Egypt’s most interesting cities.