In 1994, archaeologists surveying the seafloor near Lisbon, Portugal, spied several pieces of old timber jutting out from a mash of mud and peppercorns 10 meters below the water’s surface. The site was modest in appearance and partially looted, but it contained a key find: fragments of an ancient wooden ship known as a Portuguese Indiaman, built during the Renaissance to sail what was then the longest and most dangerous commercial route in the world–from Portugal to India, the land of pepper and spice. Designed for an age of discovery, the Indiaman “was the space shuttle of its time,” says nautical archaeologist Filipe Vieira de Castro of Texas A & M University in College Station. Read more
Illustration: Shipwreck of the Minotaur, J.M.W. Turner, circa 1810, courtesy Wikimedia commons.