Missing 16th-century Spanish armada cannon recovered by police

Bronze cannon disappeared from seabed, where it had lain for 425 years, the day after it was discovered

Spanish police have recovered a 16th-century bronze cannon that may have been carried on one of the warships in the ill-fated second Spanish armada, a fortnight after it went missing from the seabed where it had lain for more than 400 years.

A group of shellfish catchers came across three cannon in the sea off the Galician town of Ribeira in north-west Spain while out looking for goose barnacles in mid-April. But when the regional authorities and the navy arrived to salvage the cannon the following day, they found only two.

Police believe the 425-year-old weapon of war may have been taken “on a whim” to be used as a “decorative piece”. Five men and two women were questioned by the Guardia Civil police on suspicion of committing a cultural heritage offence.

Police believe the third cannon had been taken from its resting place later on the day it was discovered. Experts believe all three came from one of the ships King Philip II of Spain dispatched to fight the English in October 1596, eight years after the defeat of the original Spanish armada.

The fleet never made it to Ireland, where it was intended to join the rebellion against English forces and open a new front away from mainland Europe. Instead, it came to grief in a fierce storm off Cape Finisterre, which scattered the armada, sank more than 20 ships and claimed more than 1,700 lives.

Seven people have been investigated, five men and two women, as alleged perpetrators of a crime against historical heritage after the cannon went missing from the seabed.
Seven people have been questioned on suspicion of committing a cultural heritage offence. Photograph: Guardia Civil/EPA

Police came across a video that showed the third cannon being taken from the seafloor using ropes and a hook. Under questioning, some of the suspects revealed where it had been stashed.

“We reckon one of those being investigated decided to plunder the cannon on a whim because they thought it would make a nice decorative piece,” the Guardia Civil said in a statement. “But beyond any value it might have if you melted it down, it is an important piece because of the valuable historical and archaeological information it contains – information that gets lost if you remove it from its context and the place where it was found.”

The cannon will be examined by experts at Galicia Sea Museum in Vigo who will decide how best to conserve it.


Sam Jones in Madrid

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Spanish dig closes in on burial site of Irish lord Red Hugh O'Donnell
Valladolid archaeologists find human skull in chapel where Christopher Columbus was also buried

Sam Jones in Madrid and Rory Carroll in Dublin

27, May, 2020 @2:14 PM

Article image
Police seize 19,000 stolen artefacts in international art trafficking crackdown
101 suspects arrested and rare cultural treasures recovered in huge global investigation

Sam Jones in Madrid

07, May, 2020 @10:09 AM

Article image
Spanish armada sets sail to claim deep-sea treasure
Gulf of Cádiz race by Spain's navy to lay claim to hundreds of wrecks before US firm Odyssey can get there

Giles Tremlett in Madrid

06, Oct, 2010 @5:29 PM

Article image
Bronze age burial site in Spain suggests women were among rulers
Researchers in Murcia find exquisite objects at women’s graves later used as sites for elite warrior burials

Ashifa Kassam in Madrid

11, Mar, 2021 @5:00 AM

Article image
Spanish police recover ancient treasure from alleged looter
Metal detectorist had posted images online of artefacts including Phoenician earring

Sam Jones in Madrid

02, Aug, 2020 @12:21 PM

Article image
Spanish police recover rare 2,000-year-old Iberian sword
Double-edged, curved falcata particularly sought after because of the original condition of its blade

Sam Jones in Madrid

25, Nov, 2021 @12:26 PM

Article image
Spanish archaeologist sentenced for faking Basque finds
‘Third-century’ artefacts with hieroglyphics and Basque words referred to non-existent gods and to René Descartes

Sam Jones in Madrid

11, Jun, 2020 @4:18 PM

Article image
'An eyesore': thousands protest against Spanish cathedral's new doors
Planned update to Burgos Cathedral prompts online petition signed by more than 31,000 people

Sam Jones Madrid

18, Feb, 2021 @3:32 PM

Article image
‘Discordant’: unauthorised chapel revamp lands Spanish artist in trouble
Jesús Cees could be fined for Sant Cristòfol murals, with situation likened to ‘Monkey Christ’ furore

Ashifa Kassam in Barcelona

08, Apr, 2022 @4:32 PM

Article image
How 'Monkey Christ' brought new life to a quiet Spanish town
Cecilia Giménez is proud of her amateur restoration, which has bolstered tourism to Borja and helped fund a care home

Sam Jones in Borja

28, Dec, 2018 @7:51 AM