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Archaeologists believe shipwreck discovered off Oman coast sunk in 1503 during Europe's Age of Discovery

Over 500 years ago in May 1503, the Portuguese ship Esmeralda sunk during a violent storm, killing all crew members on board.

Now, after several years of excavation and scientific analysis, a team of archaeologists has confirmed that wreckage found off the coast of Oman belongs to the ship, which was a part of legendary Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama's armada.

According to a press release announcing the findings, da Gama's uncle, Vincete Sodré commanded the Esmeralda and researchers believe that it is the earliest ship from Europe's Age of Discovery to be found and investigated.

Oman's Ministry of Heritage & Culture along with UK-based company Blue Water Recoveries announced the recovery earlier this month. The wreck site had first been discovered in 1998, but the full-scale excavation and survey process did not begin until 2013. The archaeological team published the full details in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

The ship had sunk off an island known today as Al Hallaniyah in Oman's Dhofar region. The site is about 28 miles (45 km) off the sparsely populated southern coast of Oman.

Many notable artifacts were recovered along with the remains of the ship, and archaeologists are hoping to utilize them to gain valuable insight into what maritime trade and warfare was like in the Indian Ocean at this point in history.

Several key items that were found during the excavation helped identify the wreck site and the ship's heritage. Those items include gold coins made in Lisbon, Portugal, sometime between 1495 and 1501 as well as a bronze bell with an inscription indicating the ship was built in 1498.

An extremely rare silver coin was also recovered. Named the "Indio," the coin was commissioned by King Dom Manuel I, and there is only one other known example of this coin in the world, according to the press release. The Indio has been called the "ghost" or "lost" coin of Dom Manuel.

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Ancient weaponry, including firearms, was also found and provides proof that Manuel ordered military objectives from this fleet, which were carried out "brutally" according to the archaeologists.

In total, more than 2,800 artifacts were compiled over the three-year excavation process.

Vasco da Gama was given the titles of Dom and Admiral of the Indies after becoming the first to discover the direct sea route from Europe to India in 1498.


Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Kevin Byrne at Kevin.Byrne@accuweather.com, follow him on Twitter at @Accu_Kevin. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook