Plymouth Archaeology Society

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Plymouth Archaeology Society


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Monday 6th February 2017



Dr Dave Parham

Two Portuguese ships from Vasco da Gama's second voyage to India were wrecked in 1503 off the coast of Oman. A shipwreck found in 1998 is believed to be that of Esmerelda. Excavation of the wreck began in 2013 involving archaeologists from Bournemouth University. Dave Parham is an experienced archaeologist and diver/diving supervisor who has directed maritime archaeological projects ranging in date from the Bronze Age to WW2. He has worked extensively throughout the British Isles as well as overseas. His research interests focus on the archaeology of seafaring and ship construction of all periods.

Our lectures are held at 7:00 pm in the Devonport Lecture Theatre, Portland Square Building, Plymouth University. PAS members and University staff and students (with ID) are admitted free. Visitors are very welcome but are asked to contribute £4. Our lecture theatre facilities will be provided by Peninsula Arts with Plymouth University. We thank them for their support. No need to book, just turn up.

Links:  Campus Map    See map section g4, Portland Square Building section A.

           Winter Lecture Programme


The site environment with one survey grid and 2 divers, one UK & one Omani

setting up 2 airlifts

The range of shot found on site showing stone shot (larger) and lead shot (smaller).

The lead shot have iron dice embedded, causing them to spin  and increase their accuracy.

Two Portuguese naus from Vasco da Gama’s second voyage to India, left behind to disrupt maritime trade between India and the Red Sea, were wrecked in May 1503 off the north-eastern coast of Al Hallaniyah Island, Oman. The ships: Esmeralda and São Pedro, were commanded by da Gama’s maternal uncles, Vicente and Brás Sodré, respectively, who perished during the loss. Contemporary salvage by the surviving Portuguese, and by Malik Ayaz in 1508, resulted in the removal of all guns and much material from the wrecks.

A targeted archival research effort led to the wreck site being initially located in 1998. Following a hiatus, the project was resurrected in 2012 simultaneously with development of a National underwater archaeology programme within Oman’s Ministry of Heritage & Culture (MHC). The MHC is the official government body responsible for the protection of Oman’s underwater cultural heritage and their management of this project represents the first such government led archaeological excavation of an historic wreck site in Omani waters.

Large-scale expeditions have been mounted in 2013, 2014 and 2015 to investigate the site on a collaborative basis with the MHC. To date over 2,800 individual artefacts have been excavated and a comprehensive geophysical survey of the bay was made. Detailed scientific analysis of the artefact assemblage confirms the location of the wreck site and Esmeralda as the probable source of the remaining, un-salved wreckage. This ongoing project provides a unique opportunity to study one of the earliest ships from the Age of Discovery ever found.

Plymouth Archaeology Society (PAS) consists mainly of amateur members with an enthusiastic interest in a wide range of archaeological disciplines. We wish to share our enthusiasm for archaeology in general and provide better knowledge and support for the abundant local sites in our area.

Visitors are invited to attend any of our regular meetings (coach trips require pre-booking) and we hope you will be tempted to become a full member. PAS is open to all to apply for membership (membership information).

P.A.S. organise monthly winter lectures by invited guest speakers (winter programme). The summer programme consists of visits to local sites of interest. These are usually guided by experts with local knowledge of the site concerned (summer programme). The summer programme is augmented by coach trips to sites a little further afield. These are usually day trips but can occasionally involve a weekend away.

We also organise workshops to benefit those with a practical interest in archaeology. In the past these have included - surveying for archaeologists, geophysics and pollen analysis (archaeology workshops).

Any damage or threats to archaeological sites should be reported urgently to either The City Archaeologist based in the Planning Dept (01752 305433) or the City Museum (01752 304774). Archaeological finds should be reported to the City Museum.

Plymouth & District Archaeological Society


Plymouth Archaeology Society

As part of our recent moves to streamline and revitalise the society, the AGM held on 16th January voted to change our name from Plymouth & District Archaeological Society to Plymouth Archaeology Society. It will take a little time to ensure that all our logos, headers and texts are appropriately updated but, rest assured that all our normal organisation, lectures etc will continue as normal