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Ancient astrolabe found in 1503 shipwreck
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on November 10, 2017 12:01AM

Maritime history fans take note: An astrolabe — a celestial navigation tool that predates the sextant — was plucked from the wreckage of one of the ships in Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama’s armada, the Esmeralda, NPR reports ( The vessel went down in a storm in 1503 off the coast of Oman near the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and was first discovered in 1998.

When the 7-inch bronze disk was first salvaged from the wreck in 2014, the Blue Water Recoveries team leader, David Mearns, wasn’t completely sure what it was, as aside from some recognizable emblems, the surface was obscured. Recently, however, 3-D imaging was used on the disc, revealing the navigational markings that prove the artifact is, indeed, an astrolabe. Images of the scans are shown, courtesy of the University of Warwick.

The icing on the cake: Dating from sometime between 1495 and 1500, this find is the “earliest known” astrolabe by several decades.


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