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Archaeologist Claims He Found Columbus’ Santa Maria

An IU archaeologist is part of the team investigating a shipwreck off the coast of Haiti that one archaeologist says is the Santa Maria.

IU Underwater Science Program

Photo: IU Underwater Science Program

Members of the IU Underwater Science Program investigate shipwrecks off the coast of Haiti.

An archaeologist says he has found what he believes is Christopher Columbus’ flagship vessel the Santa Maria.

As CNN reports, underwater explorer Barry Clifford led a team that investigated the wreck off the coast of Haiti.

This is the ship that changed the course of human history,” he told CNN.

If the claim is confirmed, it would go down as one of the most significant underwater archaeological discoveries ever.

“It is the Mount Everest of shipwrecks for me,” said Clifford, 68.

But it isn’t a new find for him. Clifford’s announcement involves a wreck he and his team investigated in 2003. A cannon was found as part of the wreck. But, Clifford told CNN on Monday night, archaeologists at the time “misdiagnosed” the cannon.

Indiana University Professor Charles Beeker, director of the IU Office of Underwater Science, has visited the shipwreck with Clifford and is currently in the Dominican Republic for ongoing research.

Beeker told The Independent that the finding warrants a “detailed scientific investigation.”

“There is some very compelling evidence  from the 2003 photographs of the site and from the recent reconnaissance dives that this wreck may well be the Santa Maria.

“But an excavation  will be necessary in order to find more evidence and confirm that,” said Professor Beeker.

Geoffrey Conrad, professor emeritus of anthropology at IU Bloomington and a collaborator with Beeker on archaeological research in the Caribbean, notes that the location of the discovery is consistent with the location where Columbus’ logbook indicates the ship ran aground.

“It’s in the right place,” Conrad said in a press release from Indiana University. “It’s the best candidate yet for the Santa Maria.”

Such an investigation into the shipwreck would include a scientific diving expedition and underwater archaeological excavation. The next phase of the project will likely attempt to recover artifacts while trying to cause minimal impact to the site. But, if research findings indicate that the shipwreck is likely the Santa Maria, a full excavation will be undertaken, officials say, in cooperation with the Haitian government.

The Santa Maria was the flagship of Christopher Columbus’ initial voyage to the Americas in 1492.

Gretchen Frazee

Gretchen Frazee is a reporter/producer for WFIU and WTIU news. Prior to her current role, Frazee worked as the associate online content coordinator for WFIU/WTIU. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studied multimedia journalism and anthropology. You can follow her on Twitter @gretchenfrazee.

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