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Dr Margaret Helen Rule (1928-2015)
 
Dr Margaret Helen Rule, CBE, the woman who helped raise the Mary Rose, died Thursday aged 86. She led the project that excavated and raised a huge section of Henry XIII’s Tudor warship from the bottom of the Solent in October 1982.
 
More here. Video here. See also our earlier feature New Mary Rose Museum opens this month.
    

Mongol invaders (left) fire on Takezaki Suenaga (on horseback) while a tetsuhau or ceramic projectile bomb explodes overhead
From the 13th century Mōko Shūrai Ekotoba (蒙古襲来絵詞) Japanese handscroll of the Mongol Invasion of Japan

Museum of the Imperial Collections, Tokyo Imperial Palace
Source Wikimedia Commons

Tasuku Ueda, Staff Writer, for the Asahi Shimbun, reports on the possible discovery of Kublai Khan’s invading fleet to Japan –

Matsuura, Nagasaki Prefecture: A wreck found off Takashima Island here is likely part of a Mongol invasion fleet that came to grief in a typhoon more than 700 years ago. The discovery was announced Oct. 2 by archaeologists with the University of the Ryukyus and the Matsuura City board of education who are researching the Takashima Kozaki underwater historic site.

Numerous artefacts have been recovered from the seabed from wrecks of fleets dispatched in 1274 and 1281 to invade Japan. In both invasion attempts, battles were fought in northern Kyushu. The fleet of 4,400 vessels sent by Kublai Khan in 1281 was wrecked near Takashima Island in a storm the Japanese dubbed ‘Kamikaze’ (divine wind) for ultimately saving their homeland from the Mongols.

An earlier report in Archaeology by James P. Delgado describes the discovery by Kenzo Hayashida of the Kyushu Okinawa Society for Underwater Archaeology (KOSUWA) of a, “…tetsuhau or ceramic projectile bomb. KOSUWA has recovered six of these from the wreck. They are the world’s earliest known exploding projectiles and the earliest direct archaeological evidence of seagoing ordnance.” Delado writes –

Chinese alchemists invented gunpowder around A.D. 300, and by 1100 huge paper bombs much like giant firecrackers were being used in battle. Chinese sources refer to catapult-launched exploding projectiles in 1221, but some historians have argued that the references date to later rewritings of the sources. In his recent book In Little Need of Divine Intervention, which analyses two Japanese scrolls that depict the Mongol invasion, Bowdoin College historian Thomas Conlan suggests that a scene showing a samurai falling from his horse as a bomb explodes over him was a later addition. Conlan’s research masterfully refutes many of the traditional myths and commonly held perceptions of the invasion, downplaying the number of ships and troops involved and arguing that it was not the storms but the Japanese defenders ashore, as well as confusion and a lack of coordination, that thwarted the khan’s two invasions. But his suggestion that the exploding bomb is an anachronism has now been demolished by solid archaeological evidence. Moreover, when the Japanese x-rayed two intact bombs, they found that one was filled just with gunpowder while the other was packed with gunpowder and more than a dozen square pieces of iron shrapnel intended to cut down the enemy.

More here and in Archaeology here.

 

 
 
The Santa Maria by Adolf Gross (1873-1933)
 
BBC News Latin America & Caribbean reports yesterday on the possible discovery of the Santa Maria, the flagship of Christopher Columbus’s famed expedition of 1492 –
 
Barry Clifford [US underwater investigator] said evidence “strongly suggests” a ruin off Haiti’s north coast is the Santa Maria. Mr Clifford’s team has measured and taken photos of the wreck. He says he is working with the Haitian government to protect the site for a more detailed investigation.
 
The Santa Maria, along with the La Nina and La Pinta, were part of Columbus’s expedition in 1492, which explored islands in the Caribbean in an attempt to find a westward passage to Asia. The flagship was lost during the expedition, shortly before Columbus returned to Spain. “All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’s famous flagship, the Santa Maria,” said Mr Clifford.
 
Full article here.
   
 
Divers  examining a sunken statue from Heracleion. Image credit Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation
 
 
Richard Gray, Science Correspondent for The Telegraph, reports last month that –
 
For centuries it was thought to be a legend, a city of extraordinary wealth mentioned in classical texts, visited by Helen of Troy and Paris, her lover, but apparently buried under the sea. In fact, Heracleion was true, and a decade after divers began uncovering its treasures, archaeologists have produced a picture of what life was like in the city in the era of the pharaohs.
 
The city, also called Thonis, disappeared beneath the Mediterranean around 1,200 years ago and was found during a survey of the Egyptian shore at the beginning of the last decade. Now its life at the heart of trade routes in classical times are becoming clear, with researchers forming the view that the city was the main customs hub through which all trade from Greece and elsewhere in the Mediterranean entered Egypt.
 
They have discovered the remains of more than 64 ships buried in the thick clay and sand that now covers the sea bed. Gold coins and weights made from bronze and stone have also been found, hinting at the trade that went on. Giant 16 foot statues have been uncovered and brought to the surface while archaeologists have found hundreds of smaller statues of minor gods on the sea floor. Slabs of stone inscribed in both ancient Greek and Ancient Egyptian have also been brought to the surface. Dozens of small limestone sarcophagi were also recently uncovered by divers and are believed to have once contained mummified animals, put there to appease the gods.
 
Full article here.
 
 
 
 
The old Mary Rose Museum has closed but the new Mary Rose Museum is nearly finished and will open to the public on the 31 May 2013
 
For almost three decades since being raised from the Solent, the hull of the Mary Rose – Henry VIII’s 500-year-old flagship – has been continuously sprayed, first with chilled fresh water to remove salt and then with Polyethlene Glycol (PEG), a water soluble wax which prevents shrinkage of the timbers, having been submerged underwater for almost 500 years. Now, just four weeks from the official opening of the new £27m Mary Rose Museum, staff at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard have announced that these spray jets have been turned off for the first time today (Monday 29th April), marking a new historic milestone in the conservation of the ship.
 
The Tudor warship will now enter into an air drying phase, where over 100 tons of water will be extracted from the hull over the next 4 to 5 years. With a pioneering building design, the new museum encircles a “Hot Box” chamber that houses the hull of the ship as this highly technical drying out process takes place. This notable design will enable visitors the intriguing opportunity to see conservation in action through windows into the airtight chamber where the hull lies, as fabric ducts direct conditioned air, in a highly sophisticated pattern, to gradually remove water from the wood. This carefully monitored process has only been executed on this scale on the Swedish warship Vasa, and the Mary Rose Trust has worked closely with them to learn from their experience and the Trust team are now considered to be the leading experts on maritime conservation in the world.
 
More here on the conservation of the Mary Rose, or visit the Mary Rose Museum website here.
 
 

A map of the UK with Doggerland marked as red. Image credit and © University of St Andrews

The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London this year showcases an exhibition titled Drowned landscapes

The only lands on Earth that have not been extensively explored are those that have been lost to the oceans. After the end of the last Ice Age extensive landscapes that had once been home to thousands of people were inundated by the sea. Although scientists predicted their existence for many years, exploration has only recently become a reality.

This exhibit explores those drowned landscapes around the UK and shows how they are being rediscovered through pioneering scientific research. It reveals their human story through the artefacts left by the people – a story of a dramatic past that featured lost lands, devastating tsunamis and massive climate change. These were the challenges that our ancestors met and that we face once more today.

How it works

Current climate change and associated sea level rise are at the forefront of social and scientific discussion, but research shows that dramatic changes in the environment have occurred numerous times in the past.

One of the most significant landscapes lost to sea level rise is the European world of Doggerland. Occupying much of the North Sea basin, this inundated landscape, bigger than many modern European countries, was slowly submerged between 18,000 BC and 5,500 BC. Archaeologists now consider Doggerland to have been the heartland of human occupation within Northern Europe at that time, but understanding it depends on being able to locate and visualise the landscape.

The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, Drowned landscapes, is running until Sunday, 8 July 2012. More here and here.

 

 
The Margin of Safety Is Too Narrow!
 
Article 1(a) of the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Heritage states that –
 
“Underwater cultural heritage” means all traces of human existence having cultural, historical or archaeological character which have been partially or totally under water, periodically or continuously, for at least 100 years.
 
The Titanic sank on the 15 April 1912 – more than 1,500 people lost their lives. Arlan Ettinger, and his New York auction house Guernsey’s Auctioneers & Brokers, will be holding their auction of more than 5,000 Titanic artefacts on the 11 April 2012 (some reports give the 1 April) just a few days before the 100th anniversary of the luxury liner’s tragic sinking, and just short of UNESCO’s declaration that artefacts which have been partially or totally under water for at least 100 years are ‘cultural heritage’.
 
 
The Titanic sinking by Willy Stöwer, 1912. Source Wikipedia
 
The margin of safety (morality) here is narrow, and given that purchases at auction may take more than a few weeks to complete, seller and buyer in this case may find themselves in breach of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Heritage. Let’s hope that that possibility will encourage this ‘lot’ to find a more fitting end than the one that awaits it under the auctioneer’s hammer.
 
The 1912 cartoon above (source Wikipedia) depicts a man representing the public and clutching a copy of a newspaper with the headline ‘THE TITANIC’ while pounding his fist on a ‘PUBLIC SERVICE’ desk belonging to a man representing ‘The Companies’.
 
See also the feature on The Inclusive Museum website.
 
 

…sets out basic principles for the protection of underwater cultural heritage; provides a detailed State cooperation system; and provides widely recognized practical Rules for the treatment and research of underwater cultural heritage.

More videos on this as well as other topics here.

Diver with a Greek amphora. Image credit Big Blue Tech

Did you know that there are more than 20,000 estimated prehistoric sites lying on the bottom of the Baltic? Or that 3 million ancient shipwrecks are estimated to lie on the seabed? Have you ever supposed that more than 150 sunken cities and ruined sites are located under water in the Mediterranean, including the remains of one of the Seven Wonders of the World? Or that artefacts recovered from the sea have been dated back 300,000 years!

Source UNESCO.

The seabed holds a wealth of archaeological information yet, …these sites and the stories of human history that they tell are in danger. Pillaging, salvaging, oil-exploration and drilling, shore-front development and construction are just a few of the threats facing this remarkable heritage.

Source Archaeology News Network.

To help the public enjoy our underwater heritage, UNESCO will be organising an evening event on 12 December at 7 pm in the Free University, Brussels. Following the event, and to mark the tenth anniversary of UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection of Underwater Heritage, there will be a meeting of experts at the Belgian Royal Library in Brussels from 13 to 14 December.

 

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