17 December 2012

Namibia: Shipwreck Exhibition Donated

The Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture has donated the Mobile Traveling Exhibition of Oranjemund's shipwreck, discovered in 2008 by a Namdeb employee, to the Oranjemund Town Council.

The exhibition, valued at over N$286 000, was part of Oranjemund's inaugural Diamond Festival and was handed over at the official opening of the festival. The Mayor of Oranjemund, Henry Coetzee, said he was overwhelmed by the ministry's gesture.

The shipwreck, which has since been established as being of Portuguese origin, was discovered during a routine mining operation close to Oranjemund by Namdeb on April 01, 2008 by one of the company's employees, Kaapandu Shatika.

The discovery some 12 kilometres west of the Orange River delta immediately caused a sensation throughout the world and brought together heritage specialists from countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Portugal, Spain and Namibia.

The international significance of the discovery prompted the government and Namdeb to assemble an international team of experts to rescue and salvage the remains of the ship. Thus the international rescue operation also represented strong cooperation between Namdeb and the Namibian government.

According to the National Heritage Act of Namibia and International Conventions (heritage laws), all shipwrecks discovered in Namibian waters that are older than 35 years belong to the state.

This ownership confers an international duty to protect and preserve the shipwreck as a heritage of the world. The Oranjemund shipwreck is the archaeological remains of an early 17th century Portuguese trading ship.

Subsequent excavations produced a large amount of gold, silver and copper alloy coins; elephant ivory tusks; tonnes of copper, lead, pewter and tin ingots; kitchenware; cannons, muskets and swords; navigational equipment and medical equipment.

Some of the copper ingots were inscribed with the Fugger family crest, a prominent family from Augsburg, Germany, who invested in the Portuguese shipping trade. Dates on the coins range from 1525 through the early 17th century. Some of these items are stored at a laboratory at Oranjemund while the gold coins are being stored in a vault at the Bank of Namibia in Windhoek.

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