Major archaeological survey uncovers secrets of Plymouth Sound
LONG-lost treasures and historical artifacts dating back centuries are being discovered in Plymouth Sound in the first ever major archaeological survey of its kind.
A huge US-led marine research and exploration project is currently under way in the city to discovery the secrets of the Sound.
The project is being led by ProMare, a not-for-profit charity which was established in 2001 to promote marine research and exploration throughout the world.
Since 2001 it has developed archaeological research projects and uncovered treasures in countries including Norway, Italy, Portugal, the US and Argentina.
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And since June 2010, the ProMare team has been focused on uncovering the hidden gems underwater in Plymouth Sound.
"Since we began we have found evidence of up to 800 shipwrecks in Plymouth Sound alone," said Ayse Atauz the president of ProMare who has re-located to Plymouth.
"We've found ancient wooden ships, ceramics and pottery and cannons to name just a few things.
"We've found hundreds of new artifacts and targets in Plymouth Sound since we started in 2010.
"It has been used since Roman times or even before then. We've even discovered evidence of Viking settlements in the Tamar area.
"Most of these are of national and international significance. We know that Plymouth has been extremely important over the centuries as a port.
"It was one of the major ports for the south of England. The history of anchorage here goes back to when people first began to go to sea.
"This is the first ever major archaeological survey of Plymouth Sound. It's the first attempt at a systematic survey of the Sound."
Ayse said ProMare chose Plymouth because of the potential concentration of shipwrecks in the area.
"It's one of the largest natural harbours in England and it's been used by seafarers for centuries," added Ayse.
"Plymouth is perfect because of its archaeological potential. That's why we chose the city."
Ayse said the research project currently involves dozens of people and ProMare is working alongside Oxford University, The Nautical Archaeology Society, Plymouth University, Exeter University and The Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery as well as numerous Plymouth-based diving and historical interest groups.
Ayse said rather than unearthing what they are discovering, the team is cataloguing the finds for its website, and allowing groups such as The South West Maritime History Society to publish the results.
The Turkey-born chief archaeologist is based at Estover-based MSubs Ltd which is where her husband, Brett Phaneuf, works in business development.
MSubs Ltd has contracts with the Ministry of Defence and the US Navy to design and build submarines.
In between projects the city firm is also building a 24ft diesel electric submarine which will be launched later this year.
The bright red submarine named 'Fruitcake' – which will be able to be remotely controlled or controlled by two men – will be able to dive to depths of 100 metres.
Brett said the plan is to base the submarine at either Sutton Harbour or Queen Anne's Battery marina, and use it to search the Sound's seabed for shipwrecks or historical artifacts.
The 43-year-old, who is also an archaeologist, said MSubs Ltd's new submarine and the current research project are the "perfect match".
"We are in a great position because we build submarines and we all have a great interest in archaeology," he said.
"It goes hand in hand."
Brett also urged people in Plymouth to "embrace" their history and get involved in the project.
"We want to reach out to people in Plymouth and say 'this is your history' and 'this is why it's interesting'," said the 43-year-old American.
"Plymouth Sound and this whole area is such a dynamic place.
"Every single day we're expecting something new to be discovered.
"There are thousands of ships and artifacts that are waiting to be discovered."
If you wish to get involved in ProMare's research in Plymouth, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Treasures discovered in and around Plymouth Sound
A Prussian gun was found by three Plymouth divers in 1972 on the east side of Drake's Island. It has been provisionally dated as 1750 to 1780.
A brass key fob has been found east of Drake's Island which bears the inscription 'ST NICHS ISLAND 8' on one side and 'MASTER GUNNER STORE' on the other.
The wreck of the Coronation was discovered off Rame Head, and off Lady Cove in 1969.
A copper alloy nail was found on the 'inshore Coronation' site.
The Coronation site is littered with debris dumped from barges on their way to the dumping ground so this nail may not have come from the wreck of the Coronation. It has been provisionally dated as 1691.
A 355mm tall earthenware jug was recovered from the Tamar near Cremyll.
A red salt glazed stoneware Bellarmine or Beardman jar – which were used from medieval times until about 1700 – is believed to have been found in Plymouth Sound.
A 566mm 9kg Greco-Roman lead anchor stock was found on rocks off Fort Bovisand.
A 360mm 15kg single-hole granite anchor was found west of the Erme Estuary.
A 335mm 10kg three-hole stone anchor was found off Rame Head.