Divers Found Cargo That Might Just Lead to a 'Mind-Blowing' Neolithic Shipwreck

abandoned wreck
We May Have Found Cargo From A Neolithic ShipwreckEric Volto - Getty Images
  • A series of obsidian blocks were found off the Italian island of Capri.

  • Italian authorities believe the obsidian could have come from a Neolithic shipwreck.

  • Other experts say it is possible that the the site was once a Stone Age settlement, before the sea engulfed it.

Obsidian was the gold of the Stone Age. So, when a series of obsidian blocks have been located off the coast of Capri, authorities began saying that the “worked obsidian cores” could have been the precious cargo a Neolithic shipwreck.

“Finding a Neolithic wreck would be mind-blowing,” Sean Kingsley, Wreckwatch magazine editor, told Newsweek. “If any extensive cargo and crew’s belongings survive, the discovery would become one of the top five underwater strikes of all time. For now, the jury is out, however.”

The jury may be out, but the search is on. In a translated statement from the Superintendent of Archeology, Fine Arts, and Landscape for the Naples Metropolitan Area (SABAP), the group announces plans to continue extensive instrumental surveying of the seabed in order to verify the possible presence of a hull or other cargo material.

“Obsidian was precious during prehistoric times because very sharp blades were made from it, which lasted a long time,’ Sandro Barucci, an ancient seafaring researcher, tells Newsweek. “When metals were not yet in use, obsidian was the best material for making cutting tools, and its value was enormous.”

Found 100 to 130 feet below the water, SABAP said they were “recovering what must have been part of the cargo of a Neolithic-era ship.” The first piece uncovered was a massive, 17-pound piece of the valuable material. On it and other pieces, SABAP pointed to the clear traces of chiseling and processing on the surface of the “worked obsidian cores” to show the piece was in transport as part of some sort of Neolithic ship.

Barucci said that it is too early to say the obsidian came from a cargo boat that wrecked off Capri. He’d also like to see an in-depth technical examination of the obsidian before throwing around the Neolithic theory. But researchers believe that, since obsidian was popular during the Stone Age, the 17-pound piece is likely at least 4000 years old.

Barucci points out, however, that no Neolithic hull has ever been found in the Mediterranean. Even though it would have been strengthened, the wood from the ships—which would have resembled canoes with simple sails—just hasn’t had a great record of surviving the water or the wood-eating mollusks that live there.

“At Capri, if the boat had sunk quickly into the sand and remained protected, it would perhaps be possible to find some wooden parts, especially if it were a dugout canoe—i.e. made from a single large hollowed-out tree trunk,” Barucci said. “But it would truly be a very rare event indeed unique. We have to wait for the excavations.”

And this may all be wishful thinking anyway, Kinglsey said, as the seabed around the find is largely rocky and filled with boulders instead of sand.

Kingsley said that there’s also some potential that the obsidian is from a sunken prehistoric settlement, not a shipwreck. The exact location of the find, while kept a secret, is near caves that could have once been above the ocean’s reach.

All the intrigue has Italian authorities hoping for more details as they start an extensive search of the area. They’re hoping to strike more than just black gold.

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