The Unexplained: Mysterious artifacts beneath the sea

Amphorae vessels were discovered in the sea off the coast of Rio in Brazil. Photo: Mysterious Universe

After the discovery, the press began buzzing that the ocean floor treasures might well ancient Greek, Phoenician, or even Roman.

The discovery of Brazil by European explorers has been attributed to Pedro Alvares Cabral of Portugal.  Cabral was a diplomat who commanded a fleet trying to reach India.  The year was 1500.  They landed between what is now Rio and Salvador in Porto Seguro.  It is possible that another adventurer from Portugal got there in 1498, Duarte Pacheco Pereira recorded in a book, De Situ, that he was sent on an expedition by King Manuel of Portugal in that year.

Portugal has been an overbearing influence on Brazil for centuries because of early Portuguese interest.  Portuguese is the Language to this day—many of Brazil’s customs originated in Portugal.

The indigenous people that were already there were the Tupinumba Indians.

In 1982, something quite remarkable happened.  A Brazilian scuba diver who was spearfishing about ten miles from Rio, off the Ilha do Governador.  Jose Texeira brought up some very mysterious artifacts he found there.  Texeira could not keep his finds a secret for long and the press began buzzing that the ocean floor treasures were ancient Greek or Phoenician.  Ancient Greek or Phoenician?

Sara Marie Hogg

The main treasures are amphorae.  These large, tapered ceramic vessels with two opposing handles, ears, were crafted to hold olive oil and other valuable liquids.  When interested archaeologists came to inspect the find, they had barely gotten started when the Brazilian government shot all operations down and banned further underwater exploration in Guanabara Bay.  Texeira became irritated by the circus atmosphere forming and refused to tell anyone the exact location of his discoveries—to make the situation more complicated.

One of the lucky archaeologists that had arrived early enough to get some exploring done before it was banned said that he had examined a nearby underwater area that was the size of three tennis courts—he is convinced that it is an ancient shipwreck and not Greek or Phoenician, but probably Roman.  He had gone the whole length of the vessel digging through the mud with his bare hands.  He pulled out shard, after shard, from a shipload of amphorae in a dangerous ocean.

There are those who do not think this man, Robert F. Marx to be a true scientist—he has had his detractors.  Maybe it is professional envy.  He has quite a list of accomplishments:  he has taken part in 2,000 excavations, both underwater and on land.  He was able to locate 2 ships on the floor of the Caribbean—they had belonged to Columbus.

He was also instrumental in finding the bones of Columbus at a cathedral in Spain.  He received a knighthood from Spain for recreating a voyage of Columbus—the crews were in full authentic costume of the day—they used only the technology available at the time of Christopher Columbus.

Marx was drawn in when he heard the original rumors about the amphorae, but he was further intrigued when a diver found a Phoenician platter further down in the bay.

Many people have thrown out the possibility that these ancient artifacts could have been amphorae brought over in more recent years and dumped in the bay — maybe the work of pirates on the run.  For some, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there were ancient ships that were wrecked off the coast of Brazil.  There are even other detractors that say the amphorae are made in recent times and aged to look old.

Marx scoffs at these notions:  there is no reasoning behind those types of scenarios or any record of such events.

The problem with making this kind of discovery is that it interferes with the desire of  Portuguese and Brazilians to have Portugal be the discoverer of Brazil—even though some Spaniards had landed there in the same time frame as Cabral and Pereira.  They are not ready to name a new discoverer for the country.

Portugal even complained that Cabral was defamed by suggesting Romans had been there first—this is what the archaeologist from Florida, Robert F. Marx, has explained about the difficulty of further exploration of the wreck site.  Marx confided that “No one has been able to explain convincingly how the amphorae got there.”  He further explained to any skeptics that the amphorae are encrusted with coral that has not grown in that area for centuries.

Marx, a maritime archaeologist, formed a team with the Brazilian firm, Fenicia Pesquisas Arqueologicas to explore the underwater shipwreck and to quote Marx, it is, “One of the most important discoveries ever made in the field of underwater archaeology.”

The important discovery seems to have fallen through the cracks of customs and diplomacy.  Will we ever get to know what fantastic wonders could exist in Guanabara Bay?

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of The Scavenger’s Song. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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