Bournemouth University

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Ancient shipwreck yields early trade secrets

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Gold torc underwater Rare Bronze Age finds provide evidence of complex and widespread trade links some 3,000 years ago

Rare Bronze Age finds provide evidence of complex and widespread trade links some 3,000 years ago.

Marine archaeology experts from BU have helped in the discovery and excavation of one of the world's oldest known shipwrecks.

Lying off the coast of Devon in the south west of England, the Bronze Age site has yielded a number of important finds including ingots of copper and tin as well as a bronze leaf sword and gold bracelets.

The copper and tin ingots would have been used for making bronze – the primary product of the period – which was used to make weapons, tools, jewellery, ornaments and other items. The tin ingots are the first of their kind to be found in Britain and show new and exciting evidence of a sophisticated and extensive trade network between early Britons and their 'European' neighbours.

The wreck, situated in a bay near Salcombe, south Devon, was found by a team of marine archaeologists from the South West Maritime Archaeological Group. BU marine archaeology expert Dave Parham was part of the group which discovered and recovered the wreck and its artifacts between February and November last year. Parham's colleague, Paola Palma, has done some environmental work on the site.

"What we are seeing is trade in action," said Parham who has found one other confirmed Bronze Age wreck near Salcombe and discovered further items which point to a third possible wreck of Bronze Age date in the area.

"Underwater bronze age wrecks are extremely unusual and only the Salcombe sites and another at Langdon Bay near to Dover are known so a discovery like this has the potential to rewrite history as we begin to understand more fully the kind of trade and industry that our ancestors were involved in at about 900 BC.," he continued.

Academics at the University of Oxford are carrying out further analysis of the cargo in order to establish its exact origins. The finds have been reported to both English Heritage and the Receiver of Wreck, which administers all shipwrecks. The artifacts are due to be handed over to the British Museum.

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