The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has confirmed that a series of exciting Bronze Age finds have been raised from a protected wreck site off Salcombe, in South Devon. The finds include sword blades, axes, tools and a gold bracelet.
As reported in last December's issue of Diver magazine, the finds were discovered by divers of the South West Maritime Archaeological Group (SWMAG). The tale seems a remarkable one of a wreck within a wreck. The team were diving as licensees on a protected wreck site known as the Salcombe Cannon Site.
From this 17th century wreck they had already raised gold coins, ingots and jewellery from Morocco, for which they were paid £99,000 by the British Museum in 1999. But when, late last year, they came across the new Bronze Age finds, they realised that the site must be the position of another, much earlier sinking. Experts even think that the finds could be part of a cargo carried by a Bronze Age ship whose remains lie at nearby Moor Sands.
Because they lie within the parameters of an already protected site, the finds automatically enjoy protected status. They are now being examined at the British Museum, which holds other finds from both the Cannon and the Moor Sands sites.
Sophia Exelby, the Receiver of Wreck, said: 'This is a very exciting find which shows the breadth of information which is available from shipwreck sites. We are now working to ensure that these unusual artefacts are given a good home, where their historical value can be appreciated by everyone.' A representative of the SWMAG added that the group was now working with the Receiver and English Heritage to 'ensure that these important artefacts are put on permanent display to the public'.
The finds were dominated by sword blades, which are among the earliest found in north-west Europe. Some of the objects are thought to have been made in northern France, and their shipment across the Channel would have been typical of the time. The Bronze Age was a period of active trade in metals throughout Europe.
In partnership with English Heritage, the SWMAG divers will be returning to the site this summer to see what more they can discover.
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