Archeologists Retrieve Ancient Gravestones From Shipwreck

Skeleton and archaeological tools.Training for dig fossil.Simulated same as real digging.

The discovery of the oldest shipwreck in the United Kingdom has yielded grave markers, according to maritime researchers.

The Mortar Wreck was discovered off the coast of Dorset, England, in 2020 and awarded protected status in 2022. It was so named because a collection of marble mortars was found aboard.

While previous digs have unearthed kitchenware and ceramics, a team from Bournemouth University in England recently unearthed several engraved tombstones and stone mortars used to crush bread from the Middle Ages.

Bournemouth University revealed the finding. The gravestones are thought to have been at the bottom of the English Channel for 800 years until they were discovered near Studland Bay, off the coast of Dorset.

Despite one stone being coated with barnacles, pictures reveal that the tomb slabs were amazingly well-kept throughout the years.

The stones were recovered last Tuesday after maritime archaeologists spent more than two hours working on the project.

The news release described an estimated 70 kilos of “immaculately preserved slab” measuring 1.5 meters in length and width. The other, much larger slab is in two pieces, with a combined length of two meters and a weight of around 200 kilograms. The slabs weigh about 154 and 440 pounds, respectively.

The substantial tombstones were probably meant for esteemed clergymen, who were highly respected in medieval English culture.

According to Tom Cousins, the project’s principal archaeologist, the same type of stone is found at Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral, and Salisbury Cathedral.

The tombstones are scheduled to be on public display next year, so archaeologists from Bournemouth University are busy desalinizing and preserving them.

When it was initially found in 1982, the location of the Mortar Wreck was thought to be nothing more than a mass of debris on the ocean floor. It wasn’t until 2019, at the behest of local charter captain Trevor Small, that a Bournemouth diving crew discovered what lay under the beach. Only then did its importance become apparent.

The Bournemouth team will get further insight into living in the thirteenth century and the old skill of stonemasonry as they continue to uncover items, including burial slabs and mortars.