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Wreck of Slave Ship From 1794 Discovered Off South African Coast

Image: Wreck of Slave Ship From 1794 Discovered Off South African Coast
Iron ballast recovered from the São José slave ship wreck was used to weigh down the ship and its human cargo. (Iziko South African Museum)

By    |   Monday, 01 Jun 2015 03:10 PM

Artifacts from the wreck of a slave ship, discovered by a group of divers and archaeologists off the coast of South Africa, will be unveiled this week for the first time.

The Portuguese slave ship, Sao Jose-Paquete de Africa, sank off Cape Town in 1794 during its journey from Mozambique to Brazi, CNN reported. The ship is said to have carried more than 500 slaves, nearly half of whom are thought to have drowned. The rest were reportedly resold in the Western Cape.

A wooden pulley block, shackles, and an iron ballast that weighed down the human cargo ship have been recovered so far, and will go on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opens in Washington, D.C., next year.

Iziko Museums of South Africa is expected to formally announce the discovery in Cape Town on Monday.

"The Sao Jose slave shipwreck site reverberates with historical significance and represents an addition to our underwater heritage that has the potential to advance knowledge and understanding of slavery, not only at the Cape but on a global level," Rooksana Omar, CEO of Iziko Museums, said in a statement.

This discovery is especially noteworthy because a slave-carrying vessel has never before been found, Lonnie Burch, founding director of the new Smithsonian museum, said in the same statement.

"The Sao Jose is all the more significant because it represents one of the earliest attempts to bring East Africans into the trans-Atlantic slave trade — a shift that played a major role in prolonging that tragic trade for decades," she said.

Treasure hunters were initially first to discover the ship, however they misleadingly labeled the wreck as a Dutch vessel. Between 2010 and 2011, Iziko museum archeologist Jaco Boshoff uncovered an account of the wreck created by the captain of the ship, which renewed interest and speculation in the site.

"What I'm really hoping for, and we're still trying to make sure that we've got, is a piece of wood from the hull of the ship where the enslaved people were held," Bunch told Smithsonian magazine.

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Artifacts from the wreck of a slave ship, discovered by a group of divers and archaeologists off the coast of South Africa, will be unveiled this week for the first time.
wreck, slave, ship, south africa, coast
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2015-10-01
Monday, 01 Jun 2015 03:10 PM
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