Ear­li­est known marine nav­i­ga­tion tool re­vealed with scan­ning tech­nol­ogy

Timeless Travels Magazine - - ARCHAEOLOGICAL NEWS -

De­tails of the ear­li­est known marine nav­i­ga­tion tool, dis­cov­ered in a ship­wreck, have been re­vealed thanks to state-of-the-art scan­ning tech­nol­ogy at WMG, Univer­sity of War­wick.

Pro­fes­sor Mark Williams from WMG was tasked with scan­ning the arte­fact – an as­tro­labe from the late fif­teenth cen­tury, used by mariners to mea­sure the al­ti­tude of the sun dur­ing voy­ages – which was ex­ca­vated in 2014 by Blue Wa­ter Re­cov­ery.

When the team found the ob­ject, no mark­ings were vis­i­ble – they be­lieved it was an as­tro­labe, but they could not see any nav­i­ga­tional mark­ings on it.

They then ap­proached Pro­fes­sor Williams, who con­ducts pi­o­neer­ing scan­ning analy­ses in his lab­o­ra­tory at WMG, to re­veal the arte­fact’s in­vis­i­ble de­tails.

The scans showed etches around the edge of the ob­ject, each sep­a­rated by five de­grees – prov­ing that it is an as­tro­labe.

Th­ese mark­ings would have al­lowed mariners to mea­sure the height of the sun above the hori­zon at noon to de­ter­mine their lo­ca­tion so they could find their way on the high seas. It is be­lieved to date from be­tween 1495 and 1500, and was re­cov­ered from the wreck of a Por­tuguese ex­plorer ship which sank dur­ing a storm in the In­dian Ocean in 1503.

The boat was called the Es­mer­alda and was part of a fleet led by Por­tuguese ex­plorer Vasco da Gama, the first per­son to sail di­rectly from Europe to In­dia.

David Mearns, from Blue Wa­ter Re­cov­ery, who led the ex­ca­va­tion, com­mented:

“It’s a great priv­i­lege to find some­thing so rare, some­thing so his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant, some­thing that will be stud­ied by the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal com­mu­nity and fills in a gap.

“It was like noth­ing else we had seen... it adds to the his­tory, and hope­fully more as­tro­labes from this pe­riod can be found.”

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