Saturday, October 15, 2005


UWF expedition yields trove of new discoveries


Pensacola News Journal
October 13, 2005

An archaeological team led by University of West Florida archaeologist Greg Cook recently brought back more than 100 artifacts from a shipwreck survey project off the coast of Ghana, Africa.

A joint venture between UWF, Syracuse University and the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, the goal of the research is to locate and document the remains of colonial trading ships that wrecked off Ghana's "Gold Coast."

In 2003, Cook and his team conducted the first systematic survey for archaeological shipwreck sites in sub-Saharan West Africa. Seventy potential wreck sites were located.

Divers investigated three of the most promising targets, one of which proved to be a shipwreck site containing European goods such as iron cannon, stacks of brass pans, bowls, basins and "manilas" (open-ended brass bracelets commonly traded on the coast) probably dating to the 18th or early 19th century.

Cook and several UWF and Syracuse University archaeology students traveled this summer to Ghana to conduct further investigations on the known wreck site and test more of the targets in the hope of locating other colonial shipwreck sites.

The team now will study, preserve and display the artifacts at UWF's Archaeology Institute before they are returned to the government of Ghana.

Cook and his team of UWF and Syracuse students are the first archaeologists to investigate a West African colonial trade ship. The project is funded by the National Geographic Society.

For almost four centuries, Elmina Castle in Ghana -- built by the Portuguese in 1482 -- was the most important outpost in West Africa. It was here that ships loaded with European manufactured goods anchored off shore and traded for gold and enslaved Africans from the continent's interior.

"Though the region was hazardous to navigation and virtually no natural harbors existed, profits from these precious metals and human "commodities" led mariners to brave the dangerous currents, submerged rock outcrops, debilitating fevers and the threat of naval attacks that became common in the region," Cook said.

"Numerous accounts note the loss of vessels along Ghana's coastline due to the natural hazards as well as fierce European competition for the African trade. While the accounts do not provide the location of specific wrecks, these tragedies have resulted in an excellent opportunity for archaeologists to study ships and cargos involved in the West African trade."

Cook plans to lead more trips to Africa to continue his research and help train citizens of Ghana on how to research and preserve the wrecks, possibly even establishing an archaeology research center in the nation.


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