Incredible Images Reveal Renaissance Shipwreck in 'Discovery of the Decade'

A 400-year-old shipwreck discovered off the coast of Portugal is “the most important find of all time” for the country, a specialist told news agency Reuters on Monday.

Archaeologists found spices, cannons, Chinese ceramics and cowry shells in and around the sunken vessel which was discovered near Cascais, a resort town near the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, in early September.

Researchers found the wreck during a decade-long archaeological project supported by the navy, the Portuguese government, the municipal council of Cascais, and Nova University of Lisbon.

The boat—which lay 40 feet below the ocean surface—was returning from India. Its contents, project director Jorge Freire told Reuters, were “very well-preserved.”

9_25_Portugal shipwreck 1
Artifacts litter the seabed off the coast of Portugal at the site of a centuries-old shipwreck in Cascais, as seen in this handout photo released September 24, 2018. Augusto Salgado/Cascais City Hall/Handout via Reuters

“From a heritage perspective, this is the discovery of the decade. In Portugal, this is the most important find of all time,” Freire said.

Researchers think the ship was wrecked at the height of the country's spice trade with India—sometime between 1575 and 1625.

“We don't know the name of the ship, but it's a Portuguese ship from the late 16th or early 17th century,” Freire told The Guardian. “It tells us a great deal about Cascais's maritime history and identity…this is a great discovery and its greatness lies in what it, and the artefacts, can tell is about the cultural landscape.”

9_25_Portugal Shipwreck_5
The remains of a historical ship and its contents are pictured at the seabed in Cascais, Portugal, in this handout photo released September 24, 2018. Augusto Salgado/Cascais City Hall/Handout via Reuters

Peppercorns were among the items found at the site of the wreckage, which lies in an area stretching some 330- by 160-feet, the newspaper reported. The cowry shells discovered along with the vessel were commonly used in the slave trade.

It is the latest vessel to be discovered at the mouth of the Tagus river. Back in 1994 the Our Lady of the Martyrs boat was found near a military defense complex in the area, Reuters reported.

9_25_Portugal Shipwreck_2
Divers explore a centuries-old shipwreck in Cascais, Portugal, as seen in this handout photo released September 24, 2018. Augusto Salgado/Cascais City Hall/Handout via Reuters

“For a long time, specialists have considered the mouth of the Tagus river a hotspot for shipwrecks,” Minister of Culture, Luis Mendes, told Reuters. “This discovery came to prove it.”

Carlos Carreiras, Mayor of Cascais, told The Guardian: “It's an extraordinary discovery that allows us to know more about our history, reinforcing our collective identity and shared values. That, in turn, will certainly make us more attractive and competitive.”

9_25_Portugal Shipwreck_4
The wreckage of a centuries-old shipwreck are pictured in this handout photo taken off the coast of Cascais in Portugal and released September 24, 2018. Augusto Salgado/Cascais City Hall/Handout via Reuters

Towards the end of last year, news emerged that eight Ancient Roman shipwrecks were discovered off the coast of a Greek island. Just weeks beforehand, the Egyptian government announced that three Roman shipwrecks had been found in Egypt.

Nova University of Lisbon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.