A work crew was working on a drainage project near St. Augustine, Florida’s oldest city, earlier this month when workers unexpectedly unearthed a well-preserved wooden shipwreck, archaeologists said.
The remarkable state of preservation of the remnants of the shipwreck is largely attributed to the wooden boat being buried in mud and silt in over time, which protected it from rotting as it was not exposed to the air.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) found the shipwreck while working on State Road A1A near the Bridge of Lions.
The unexpected discovery occurred as construction crews were engaged in a drainage improvement project.
FDOT archaeologists and experts believe the well-preserved wooden vessel dates back to the mid-to-late 1800s.Given the historic significance of the area, FDOT promptly collaborated with Southeastern Archaeological Research (SEARCH), a maritime archaeology team, to ensure the careful excavation and preservation of the shipwreck.
District 2 Secretary Greg Evans expressed his amazement at the find, suggesting the vessel may have sunk unexpectedly and remained encapsulated in soil and mud, preserving it for over a century.
James Delgado, Senior Vice President at SEARCH, who led the excavation and recovery of the boat, said experts believe the vessel was likely a fishing boat that would have caught fish and shellfish from coastal waterways and offshore in the 19th century.
“Every find, including artifacts such as broken bottles, shoes and wood fragments from the vessel, were mapped, cataloged and bagged with water for further laboratory analysis by SEARCH archaeologists,” officials said in the release.
“We believe the vessel to be a small single-masted, shallow-draft sailing craft of the 19th century that was likely used to extract fish and shellfish from coastal waterways and directly offshore,” he said.
“With a dedicated team, including support from the local community and the on-site construction team, we were able to extract the vessel in order to allow the important work on the community’s infrastructure to continue. We greatly appreciate FDOT’s commitment to cultural resources and in retaining SEARCH for this project.”
FDOT’s commitment to preserving cultural resources and their collaboration with SEARCH allowed for the successful extraction of the vessel while ensuring the road project’s continuity. The find is expected to provide valuable insights into the region’s history and the importance of its maritime heritage.
The find is all the more remarkable, because Florida did not become a state until 1845, although the nearby city of St. Augustine dates from 1565.
Sources: Al Jazeera, Miami Herald.