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English Heritage joins in bid to identify 'Elizabethan' shipwreck

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: June 17, 2013

One of the dive team swimming over the Lizzy wreck site. Right: Todd Stevens holds a bronze pulley wheel from the masthead of the wreck

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Samples have been taken to date a shipwreck off the Isles of Scilly that is suspected to have belonged to legendary explorer Sir Walter Raleigh.

The wreck, named the Lizzy because it is overlooked by the Elizabethan fort Star Castle as well as because of the likely date of its guns, was uncovered last summer by local divers.

It captured the imagination of the public earlier this year when its discoverers, a team led by Todd Stevens and Robin Burrows, suggested that evidence pointed towards it being the Flying Joan, a 25-man pinnace, sunk en-route to the West Indies from Plymouth in 1617. If true, the fascinating discovery would have sunk a year before the execution of Devon explorer Raleigh following a fateful voyage to South America to discover the mythical El Dorado – the lost city of gold.

Divers, under the supervision of Wessex Archaeology, visited the wreck site earlier this month to take wood samples from the ancient ship's hull.

The samples have now been given to English Heritage, set up to protect historic sites, for dating analysis, which will be carried out over the next few months.

Mark Dunkley, maritime designation advisor for English Heritage said: "We are excited to be able to help the local team this summer in investigating this historic wreck off the Isles of Scilly.

"It is important to say that English Heritage cannot commit to any association with Sir Walter Raleigh until we have completed our investigation of the site and have analysed the results of tree-ring dating, which we will be undertaking within the next few months to determine whether the hull timbers are Elizabethan or not.

"The remains of Elizabethan wreck sites are extremely rare, and when discovered in English waters, they are considered to be nationally important. "

The wreck sits in 14 metre- deep water, and is thought to have been a relatively small ship made of oak about 40 to 50ft long and 15ft wide.

Alongside it were discovered two five-to-six-foot guns, as well as more debris that could not be definitively attributed to the wreck.

Other items included a swivel gun, red clay pipe and numerous English, French and Spanish pottery fragments.

Also discovered was a bronze pulley sheave, similar to one on the famous Mary Rose wreck.

The wreck is the seventh to be discovered around St Mary's in recent years and has also been suggested to belong to an English Civil War ship.

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