Geologists hunting for diamonds instead recently discovered a 500-year old Portuguese shipwreck filled with silver and gold coins, copper ingots, cannons and other valuable artifacts off the Namibia, African coast.
“The vast amounts of gold coins would possibly make this discovery the largest one in Africa outside Egypt,” said Francisco Alves, a Lisbon-based maritime archaeologist.
There were fears high costs and weather conditions would force a halt to recovery efforts, but all the shipwreck contents are now expected to be retrieved by next week’s end, the ministry of culture in Lisbon said Wednesday.
Namdeb Diamond Corporation, a joint venture of the government of Namibia and the mining company De Beers, discovered the site during mining operations in April. Mine workers for Namedeb had built an earthen wall off the Namibian coast to push back and drain the enclosed water in their search for diamonds. Instead of diamonds, they happily found an archaeological treasure trove.
The Namibian government took over the responsibility for the excavation in May, and have been racing against time to salvage the treasures.
Alves has said the treasure includes:
- over 2,300 gold coins weighing some 21 kilograms (46 pounds),
- 1.5 kilograms of silver coins,
- about 13 tons of copper ingots,
- eight tons of tin, and
- over 50 large ivory elephant tusks
The following AFP article provides further news regarding the shipwreck and deadline.