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10 March 2005
Divers find Bronze Age treasure off south-west England

A team of amateur divers have recovered artefacts from what may be one of the oldest shipwreck sites in the world.
    The thirteen members of the South West Maritime Archaeological Group (SWMAG) were diving off the coast of Devon at Salcombe, in south-west England, when they found Bronze Age jewellery and weapons on the seabed.
    The find was made last October, and included axes, rapiers, a cauldron handle and a gold torc. Swords were retrieved which are amongst the earliest found in north-west Europe. Some of the finds were of northern French origin and are types which are rare in Britain. The finds date from 1300 BCE, and since they are believed to have come from a shipwreck, they have been declared to the Receiver of Wreck at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
    Sophia Exelby, the Receiver of Wreck, said "This is a very exciting find which shows the breadth of information which is available from shipwreck sites. We are now working to ensure that these unusual artifacts are given a good home, where their historical value can be appreciated by everyone."
    The SWMAG previously found the biggest collection of Islamic riches ever uncovered off Britain in 1995, at a shipwreck a quarter of a mile off Prawle Point. That find yielded 460 gold coins, and ingots, nuggets, pewter, jewellery and pottery which had lain undisturbed since it was lost at sea in the 1630s.
    A spokesman for SWMAG said "We thought the 17th century wreck site where we discovered Islamic gold was wonderful. But this is different and is extremely significant. "It could possibly be one of the oldest shipwrecks in the world. To my knowledge there's also been no gold found at a Bronze Age wreck before, and this is one of just two Bronze Age wrecks in the country. This discovery has really been a team effort, and we are now working with the Receiver of Wreck and English Heritage to ensure that these important artifacts are put on permanent display to the public."
    The curator of European Bronze Age collections at the British Museum, Stuart Needham, said: "The evidence from Salcombe and other rare sites help us to build up a picture of object movements, the organisation of trade and the character of seafaring."

Source: Western Morning News (8 March 2005)

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