Blacktip Island Historical Museum curators have already begun building a scale model of a Phoenician trading ship following the discovery of blocks believed to be ancient Phoenician anchors on an island reef. (photo courtesy of Georges Jansoone)
Scuba divers surveying new dive sites on Blacktip Island’s southeast coast Wednesday discovered what they believe to be ancient Phoenician stone anchors on a shallow reef.
“That area doesn’t get dived much because the seas are usually rough,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Gage Hoase said. “We’d found some sweet coral stands and were looking for a good spot for a mooring pin, when, WHAM, there were these obviously man-made somethings on the hardpan.
“They were ‘multi-holed and precisely carved,’ just like Wikipedia said Phoenician anchors were, so we’re pretty confident that’s what they are,” Hoase said. “We figure, as rough as it gets along that coast, some ancient explorers got blown off course and their ship sunk right there.”
Experts say the idea isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.
“We know the Phoenicians were in the Canary Islands, following the same sea route Columbus used,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “It’s conceivable one or more of their ships found their way to the Caribbean. Plenty of area archeology supports that.
“There are sunken marble ruins off Bimini reminiscent of Phoenician architecture, and the Bimini Road didn’t build itself,” Altschul said. “I would need to get a hands-on look at these things before I commit any further than that, but it’s a tantalizing possibility.”
Some locals were not surprised by the find.
“Always been talk of Ancient Near East ships coming here, whether Phoenician or Cretan or Mesopotamian,” island native Antonio Fletcher said. “Folks pass that off as bar talk, but now we got something to back it up. Phoenician’s most likely, since they were the best shipbuilders and sailors of their day. That’s where Blacktippers get their seafaring skills, y’know.”
Others were more skeptical.
“Gage has two blurry pictures of crusted-over cinder blocks with rope tied to them,” long-time Blacktip resident Frank Maples said. “There’s zero indication anyone was on Blacktip Island before the Vikings raided it back in the 1500s, much less ancient Phoenicians. We need to stick to verifiable facts.”
Island officials plan to confirm the find as soon as possible.
“When the weather calms down, we’ll send out a team to document the blocks in situ, then bring them ashore for further study,” Altschul said. “Ideally, we’ll find lettering on them that will tell us their origin.
“If these anchors prove to be real, they’ll go in the island historical museum,” Altschul said. “They’ll be on display for everyone to see, alongside the Viking sword hilt and the skeleton of St. Dervil’s singing iguana.”