Ancient anchor found at bottom of North Sea

Written by on September 27, 2022

An ancient anchor, now thought to be from the Roman or the late Iron Age, first discovered in the North Sea in 2018, has recently been dated and determined to be an extremely rare find. 

The anchor was uncovered as part of a marine bed survey by ScottishPower Renewables before construction of its offshore windfarm, East Anglia ONE, which is approximately 40 kilometers off the coast of Suffolk. The company commissioned Maritime Archaeology Ltd, in conjunction with the Mary Rose Archaeological Services to handle conservation efforts.

“We believe this find could be the oldest and one of the largest surviving examples, giving us hard evidence of the incredible amount of activity that must have been going on in the waters in Roman times, but that we know relatively little about.”

Brandon Mason, Maritime Archaeology Ltd

“Everything points to this being a Roman anchor of almost 2,000 years old, which is an incredibly rare piece of history,” explained Brandon Mason from Maritime Archaeology Ltd. “If this date is confirmed, it would be hard to overstate its significance – we only know about three pre-Viking anchors from northern European waters outside the Mediterranean region and only two actually survived.”

wind turbine 224 (credit: Courtesy)

Evidence of Roman maritime activity 

The anchor could provide tangible evidence of ancient Roman seafaring and trading in the southern North Sea off the coast of England. Scientists are still working to confirm its age, although there are several physical features that strongly suggest the anchor comes from the Imperial Roman Period. 

“We believe this find could be the oldest and one of the largest surviving examples, giving us hard evidence of the incredible amount of activity that must have been going on in the waters in Roman times, but that we know relatively little about,” said Mason. “It’s an absolute privilege to bring the anchor to the surface and to share its story with people not just across the East of England, but right around the world.”

The anchor is currently undergoing scientific analysis. Once the analysis is complete, and researchers have completed their imaging and dating processes, the relic will go on display permanently at the Colchester + Ipswich Museums.

Councilor Carole Jones, Ipswich Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Ipswich Museums, said that “the anchor will only be available for our visitors to get a first peek on Tuesday 27 September, before it is taken away for key conservation work ahead of returning permanently to our collection in 2025.”

Mason concluded, saying, “I look forward to seeing it on permanent display once the conservation work and analysis has been completed and thank ScottishPower Renewables for taking the time to find and preserve such an important piece of history while developing its wind farm.”

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