Seabed gives up Spanish Armada wreck cannons

Storms off the west coast of Ireland have disturbed the seabed to reveal two 16th century cannons wrecked from the Spanish Armada.

Seabed gives up Spanish Armada wreck cannons
The cannons are from La Juliana, which was wrecked in 1588. Photo: DAHG

The cannons were brought to the surface this week by underwater archaeologists and are said to be in “extraordinarily good condition”.

They are thought to come from the wreck of the merchant vessel La Juliana, which sank in storms off Stredagh, Co Sligo on Ireland’s west coast in September 1588  along with two others,La Lavia and Santa Maria de Vision.

The artifacts were recovered by the Underwater Archaeology Unit of Ireland’s Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht.

One cannon bears a dedication to and depiction of St Matrona, a saint venerated in Catalonia.

Image from Ireland's Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

It is also inscriped with the date 1570, the year La Juliana was built in Barcelona, putting the identity of the ship beyond doubt, according to the Irish government.

“We have uncovered a wealth of fascinating and highly significant material, which is more than 425 years old,” Heather Humphrey, the minister for arts, heritage and gaeltacht.said in a statement given to The Local.

“The National Monuments Service believes that all of the material has come from La Juliana, one of the three Armada ships wrecked off this coastline in 1588.

“On current evidence, the other two wreck sites remain buried beneath a protective layer of sand, but the wreck of La Juliana is now partly exposed on the seabed along with some of its guns and other wreck material.

“This material is obviously very historically and archaeologically significant,” she said, adding that the material became exposed as a result of the major storms off the West coast over the last two years.

The cannons will go on display in Ireland’s National Museum.

La Juliana was a merchantman trading between Spain and Italy when it was commandeered by Philip II of Spain for his fleet of 130 ships deployed to invade England.

But after an aborted attack on Francis Drake’s fleet at Plymouth the Spanish attempted to regroup and withdraw north. But disrupted by severe storms in the North Atlantic, a third of the Spanish fleet were wrecked.

La Juliana  was a large vessel, weighing 860 tons, carried 32 guns, 325 soldiers and had a crew of 70. Between it and the other two vessels wrecked at Streedagh, an estimated  1,000 soldiers and mariners lost their lives.

Image from Ireland's Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

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Study confirms ancient cave art in southern Spain was created by Neanderthals

Neanderthals, long perceived to have been unsophisticated and brutish, really did paint stalagmites in a Spanish cave more than 60,000 years ago, according to a study published on Monday.

Study confirms ancient cave art in southern Spain was created by Neanderthals
Photo: Joao Zilhao/ICREA/AFP

The issue had roiled the paleoarchaeology community ever since the publication of a 2018 paper attributing red ocher pigment found on the stalagmitic dome of Cueva de Ardales (Malaga province) to our extinct “cousin” species.

The dating suggested the art was at least 64,800 years old, made at a time when modern humans did not inhabit the continent.

But the finding was contentious, and “a scientific article said that perhaps these pigments were a natural thing,” a result of iron oxide flow, Francesco d’Errico, co-author of a new paper in the journal PNAS told AFP.

A new analysis revealed the composition and placement of the pigments were not consistent with natural processes — instead, the pigments were applied through splattering and blowing.


What’s more, their texture did not match natural samples taken from the caves, suggesting the pigments came from an external source.

More detailed dating showed that the pigments were applied at different points in time, separated by more than ten thousand years.This “supports the hypothesis that the Neanderthals came on several occasions, over several thousand years, to mark the cave with pigments,” said d’Errico, of the University of Bordeaux.

It is difficult to compare the Neanderthal “art” to wall paintings made by prehistoric modern humans, such as those found in the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave of France, more 30,000 years old.

But the new finding adds to increasing evidence that Neanderthals, whose lineage went extinct around 40,000 years ago, were not the boorish relatives of Homo sapiens they were long portrayed to be.

The cave-paintings found in three caves in Spain, one of them in Ardales, are throught to have been created between 43,000 and 65,000 years ago, 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

The team wrote that the pigments are not “art” in the narrow sense of the word “but rather the result of graphic behaviors intent on perpetuating the symbolic significance of a space.”

The cave formations “played a fundamental role in the symbolic systems of some Neanderthal communities,” though what those symbols meant remains a mystery for now.