Odyssey Marine Exploration Publishes Research from the Tortugas Shipwreck Excavation

Archaeological Treasure from 1622 Revealed

By MarEx 2013-04-09 11:45:00

Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., a pioneer in the field of deep-ocean exploration, has published a new series of scientific papers on the Tortugas shipwreck which was originally excavated in 1990 and 1991.

The Tortugas shipwreck is believed to be the remains of the 117-ton Buen Jesús Nuestra Señora del Rosario, one of the vessels sailing with the 1622 Tierra Firme treasure fleet bound for Spain. The papers are included in Oceans Odyssey 3: The Deep-Sea Tortugas Shipwreck, Straits of Florida: A Merchant Vessel from Spain’s 1622 Tierra Firme Fleet, recently published by Oxbow Books, Oxford. This is the third volume of Oceans Odyssey detailing Odyssey’s pioneering archaeological work.

Oceans Odyssey 3 is a product of our ongoing commitment to publish quality archaeological reports,” said Greg Stemm, Odyssey Marine Exploration’s CEO. “The comprehensive archaeological excavation of the Tortugas shipwreck over 20 years ago paved the way for innovative advances in the methodology and robotic technology that we use to this day.”

“This was one of the most important shipwreck finds of its time,” continued Stemm. “The archaeological world had long wondered what a colonial shipwreck would look like in the depths of the ocean, and whether it was possible to actually conduct archaeological fieldwork using robotics. Both these questions were answered by the Tortugas shipwreck. It was clear from the condition of this site that deep water shipwrecks were not going to be the perfectly preserved specimens that scientists had hoped for - unfortunately nature and trawlers caused significant damage even at those depths. The excavation team also proved that it was possible to conduct a sensitive archeological excavation remotely with an archaeologist supervising ROV technicians.”

The Tortugas shipwreck was discovered in the Straits of Florida in 1989 at a depth of 405 meters. The fieldwork commenced in 1990 and was the world’s first comprehensive deep-ocean archaeological excavation conducted exclusively using advanced robotics and acoustic positioning. Nearly 17,000 artifacts, ranging from gold bars to silver coins, pearls, ceramics, beads, glassware, astrolabes, tortoiseshell, animal bones and seeds, were recovered from the site during the 1990-1991 excavation seasons. The Tortugas shipwreck reflects the daily life of trade with the Americas at the end of the Golden Age of Spain and demonstrated the capabilities of deep-sea robotics as tools for precision archaeological excavation.

Built in Portugal and operated by Spanish merchants, the Buen Jesús was part of the Spanish Tierra Firme flota lost in September 1622 during a ferocious hurricane that struck the Florida Keys. Evidence suggests that this merchant navio had sailed from Seville to Cumana in eastern Venezuela to pick up a large consignment of pearls and probably the newly cultivated cash crop tobacco as well as other valuables including gold and silver from the New World.

“The Tortugas shipwreck dates to the Golden Age, the dazzling world of creativity epitomized by El Greco, Velázquez and Cervantes,” said Dr. Sean Kingsley, director of Wreck Watch Int. and editor of Oceans Odyssey 3. “Rather than staring at paintings, the Buen Jesús lets us dive into the 3D world of the past and study an extraordinary moment in time.”

In conjunction with the Oceans Odyssey 3 release, Odyssey is featuring artifacts from the shipwreck in its free virtual museum, available at www.OdysseysVirtualMuseum.com. Odyssey’s touring exhibition SHIPWRECK!, also features artifacts from the Tortugas shipwreck. Artifacts recovered from the shipwreck are also maintained in Odyssey’s permanent collection, which is available for study by qualified academics and for exhibition by museums and science centers. Oceans Odyssey 3 is available for purchase in Odyssey’s Shipwreck Store at www.ShipwreckStore.com.

Following previous successful engagements in New Orleans, Tampa, Detroit, Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Baltimore, Sarasota, San Antonio, and Hot Springs, Odyssey's SHIPWRECK! exhibition is currently on display at the Museum of Science, Boston.