About 50 yards from the shore at the Playa de la Isla in Puerto de Mazarrón is a submerged metal structure built to protect the remains of a 2,500-year-old boat.
In fact, two ancient Phoenician ships were discovered on the coast of Spain, believed to be the oldest ever found in the Mediterranean, dating from the 7th century BC. The discovery site is now celebrated with both a small interpretation centre and a large model of one of the ships, and, more aesthetically, by some fantastic steel sculptures on a roundabout on the road into town from Cartagena.
The shipwrecked vessels were a treasure trove for archaeologists, providing for the first time valuable information about how the ancient civilization built its ships and the cargo carried by the maritime traders in the western Mediterranean. Between 1500 and 300 BC, the Phoenicians traded with and established colonies in coastal regions in the Mediterranean, and beyond, making it as far as the Atlantic and beyond. They reached England and explored the western coast of Africa, and some scholars believed they even sailed around the coast of Africa, starting in the Red Sea. Puerto de Mazarrón in Murcia, Spain, was an important trading port due to its proximity to the lead and silver mining fields in town just a couple of miles inland.
It is thought that the two boats were either small coastal vessels or were used to transfer cargo to bigger ships further offshore. The first boat to be discovered (in 1988) by archaeologists was named, rather unimaginatively, Mazarrón 1. Only the keel, a few of the ribs and a small portion of the hull were found. This vessel was excavated and is currently on display in the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Cartagena.
However, the second Phoenician boat, inevitably “Mazarrón 2,” was found to be almost complete and is currently preserved, where it was found, across from the Playa de la Isla. Even some of the vessel’s ropes were found intact. The ship is 26.6 feet long,with a beam of 7.4 feet, and it still held its entire load of cargo, made up mostly of lead ingots. The anchor was also found, and is the oldest known example of that type of anchor ever found in the Mediterranean.
Know Before You Go
Mazarrón 2 is not currently visible, despite being in less than 10 feet of water, because it is covered by a metallic structure that serves as protection (the structure can be seen clearly on the Google maps satellite image). You can easily snorkel out to it, however. If you visit the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Cartagena, about 20 km away, you can see a full mock up of the vessel during the investigation process, complete with cargo and the arrangements of cords used as quadrats by the divers carrying out the investigation.