Sunken ships and a long-lost port
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Considering that our region’s long seafaring history goes back 2,000 years and more, with a brisk trade being carried on with Arabia, Africa, Rome, West Asia, and later with Portugal, it is safe to assume that hundreds of wooden sailing ships may have been wrecked off Goa’s shores and at the entrances to our harbours. Remains from at least two such shipwrecks have recently been recovered in Goa waters, as part of an initiative by maritime archaeologists of NIO, Goa. One of the wrecks, a lightly armed Portuguese sailing ship, went down at Sunchi Reef about 400 years ago; the second vessel, carrying cargo for a Basel mission company based in India, went down at St. George’s Reef, either in 1865 or some time thereafter. What goods where these ships carrying and their destination is not known? To marine archaeologists falls the task of finding answers to these and similar questions. All manner of maritime activities fall within their purview: seafaring, trade, water transport technology, coastal settlements, ports, and harbours, and also shipwrecks, together with the artefacts that the ill-fated ships then consign to the bottom of the sea. Antiquities and artefacts lying underwater are part of our cultural heritage. By studying them, maritime archaeologists can decipher the records and link the past with the present. The task becomes particularly urgent since rapid developmental activities in our coastal zone may destroy submerged evidence forever.
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