Biblical shipwreck discovery? Anchor from St. Paul’s shipwreck identified, researchers claim

Researchers claim to have identified an anchor from St. Paul’s shipwreck on the island of Malta.

According to Christian tradition, the apostle was shipwrecked on the Mediterranean island during an ill-fated first-century journey to Rome.

“The ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf,” according to the Acts of the Apostles. “Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.”

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Acts also notes that four anchors were dropped from the ship and subsequently cut loose, enabling the ship to run aground.

Paul is shipwrecked on Malta, engraving by Gustave Dore (1832-1883), from The Holy Scriptures containing the Old and New Testaments: Translated from The Latin Vulgate by Antonio Martini (1721-1809), with friezes by Enrico Giacomelli, Acts of the Apostles 27, Volume 2, 1869-1870 edition.

Paul is shipwrecked on Malta, engraving by Gustave Dore (1832-1883), from The Holy Scriptures containing the Old and New Testaments: Translated from The Latin Vulgate by Antonio Martini (1721-1809), with friezes by Enrico Giacomelli, Acts of the Apostles 27, Volume 2, 1869-1870 edition. (De Agostini Editorial/Getty)

The Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration (BASE) Institute believes that it has identified evidence of the shipwreck, which occurred around 60 A.D.

In a post on the organization’s website, BASE says that four ancient anchors were recovered by local divers, adding that only one of the anchors has been preserved. “The fourth anchor was preserved as part of a deceased diver’s legacy to his widow,” BASE writes. The organization, which is led by Bob Cornuke, also believes that the shipwreck happened in St. Thomas Bay on Malta’s southern coast, as opposed to in what is now known as St. Paul’s Bay in the north of the island.

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"In Acts 27, Luke narrates the story of Paul traveling to Rome on a large Alexandrian grain freighter.  This ship endured one of the worst storms in history, eventually shipwrecking off the coast of Malta," explained Cornuke, in an email to Fox News. "Luke’s amazing details include everything from the vessel’s nautical headings, the type of storm, the ship’s direction of drift, geographical landmarks on Malta, reef configurations, and even the depths of the seafloor.  Every detail, including how every man on board, including Paul, survived is mentioned."

Italy, Lazio, Rome, St. Paul's outside the Walls. Whole artwork view. Saint Paul and the castaways warming up around a bonfire after they landed on the isle of Malta.

Italy, Lazio, Rome, St. Paul's outside the Walls. Whole artwork view. Saint Paul and the castaways warming up around a bonfire after they landed on the isle of Malta. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Citing maritime charts and the Biblical description of the area where the ship ran aground, BASE believes that St. Thomas Bay “has all the earmarks of a prime suspect,” with regard to the wreck’s location.

Cornuke added that, after calculating the only spot on Malta which matched the Biblical description, BASE verified the course of the ship's drift using a sophisticated computer system that is typically harnessed for search and rescue operations in the waters around Malta. "The end results of that computer program matched the course of drift as the Bible describes and revealed that the ship of Paul would have impacted on the southeast coast of Malta," he told Fox News. "The only bay, which matched all the criteria in scripture and computer findings, was St. Thomas Bay."

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Citing BASE, the Express reports that the four anchors found by local divers were recovered from St. Thomas Bay in the 60s. Cornuke told Fox News that, because they were discovered in St. Thomas Bay, they were not linked to St. Paul's shipwreck. "The legend of Paul shipwrecking in St. Paul’s Bay had existed for so long that it was indelibly etched in the Maltese culture, and consequently anchors produced from any other bay could not be seen as being from Paul’s ship," he explained, via email.

This handout picture released on April 17, 2010 by The Vatican press office shows Pope Benedict XVI (L) signing a book while Malta's knights watch at Saint Paul's Grotto in Rabat, on the first day of his trip to Malta. The grotto located in Rabat, in the center of the archipelago's main island, is the place where the apostle Paul took refuge after his shipwreck on Malta, according to Christian tradition.

This handout picture released on April 17, 2010 by The Vatican press office shows Pope Benedict XVI (L) signing a book while Malta's knights watch at Saint Paul's Grotto in Rabat, on the first day of his trip to Malta. The grotto located in Rabat, in the center of the archipelago's main island, is the place where the apostle Paul took refuge after his shipwreck on Malta, according to Christian tradition. (OSSERVATORE ROMANO/FRANCESCO SFO/AFP/Getty Images)

The surviving anchor is now in the spotlight. “Could this, verifiably, be an anchor from Paul’s ship, which lay alongside three others for nearly two thousand years until they were recovered just a few years ago?” writes BASE, on its website. “As with any historical claim, the best we can do is examine the evidence in terms of probability. But the evidence for the anchors of Paul’s shipwreck is virtually overwhelming.”

Critics, however, have said that there is a lack of evidence to support BASE’s theory, and a question mark still lingers over the wreck’s actual location. Another anchor marked with ancient inscriptions that was discovered off Salina on the northern coast of Malta in 2005, for example, has also been touted as possibly linked to St. Paul’s shipwreck.

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Fox News has reached out to the University of Malta with a request for comment on this story.

The Biblical era continues to reveal its secrets. In another project, archaeologists say that they may have discovered the Biblical town of Emmaus, which is linked to Jesus’ resurrection and the Ark of the Covenant.

Haaretz reports that archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a 2,200-year-old fortification at Kiriath-Jearim, a hill on the outskirts of Abu Ghosh, a village near Jerusalem.

The fortification dates back to the Hellenistic period when ancient Greek influence in the region was strong. Tel Aviv University Professor Israel Finkelstein told Haaretz that the walls were repaired during the later period of Roman rule in the first century A.D.

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Elsewhere, soldiers at a paratrooper base in Southern Israel recently uncovered a Biblical-era watchtower.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers