Daily Archives: November 8, 2017

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Astrolabe: Shipwreck find ‘earliest navigation tool’ – BBC News

By Rebecca Morelle Science Correspondent, BBC News

  • 24 October 2017

An artefact excavated from a shipwreck off the coast of Oman has been found to be the oldest known example of a type of navigational tool.

Marine archaeologists say the object is an astrolabe, an instrument once used by mariners to measure the altitude of the Sun during their voyages.

It is believed to date from between 1495 and 1500.

The item was recovered from a Portuguese explorer 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 and is the author of The Shipwreck Hunter, told the BBC: “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.”

The astrolabe was discovered by Mr Mearns in 2014, and was one of nearly 3,000 artefacts recovered during a series of dives.

The bronze disc measures 17.5cm in diameter and is less than 2mm thick.

“It was like nothing else we had seen and I immediately knew it was something very important because you could see it had these two emblems on it,” said Mr Mearns.