Date:

Earliest known marine navigation tool revealed with scanning technology

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.

- Advertisement -

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 theobject, each separated by five degrees – proving that it is an astrolabe.

- Advertisement -

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.

The technology was able to accurately scan the item to within 0.1mm and reproduce a high-resolution 3D model.

Professor Mark Williams commented:

“It was fantastic to apply our 3D scanning technology to such an exciting project and help with the identification of such a rare and fascinating item.

“Usually we are working on engineering-related challenges, so to be able to take our expertise and transfer that to something totally different and so historically significant was a really interesting opportunity.”

The astrolabe is a bronze disc, which measures 17.5cm in diameter, and is engraved with the Portuguese coat of arms and the personal emblem of Don Manuel I, the King of Portugal from 1495-1521.

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.

University of Warwick

Header Image –  Scan of the astrolabe artefact, revealing the etches – credit University of Warwick

- Advertisement -
spot_img
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
spot_img

Mobile Application

spot_img

Related Articles

Sealed 18th century glass bottles discovered at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

As part of a $40 million Mansion Revitalisation Project, archaeologists have discovered two sealed 18th century glass bottles at George Washington's Mount Vernon.

Study suggests human occupation in Patagonia prior to the Younger Dryas period

Archaeologists have conducted a study of lithic material from the Pilauco and Los Notros sites in north-western Patagonia, revealing evidence of human occupation in the region prior to the Younger Dryas period.

Fort excavation uncovers Roman sculpture

Archaeologists excavating Stuttgart’s Roman fort have uncovered a statue depicting a Roman god.

The history of the Oak Island Money Pit

Oak Island, located in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, is a small 140-acre island which has been the subject of an ongoing treasure hunt since 1795.

Has the burial of an Anglo-Saxon king been uncovered?

Wessex founder Cerdic’s possible final resting place has emerged more than 1,000 years after it was named in an ancient royal charter.

Archaeologists uncover 4,200-year-old “zombie grave”

Archaeologists from the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt have uncovered a "zombie grave" during excavations near Oppin, Germany.

Archaeologists uncover 2,000-year-old clay token used by pilgrims

A clay token unearthed by the Temple Mount Sifting Project, is believed to have served pilgrims exchanging offerings during the Passover festival 2,000-years-ago.

Moon may have influenced Stonehenge construction

A study by a team of archaeoastronomers are investigating the possible connection of the moon in influencing the Stonehenge builders.