Construction company WBHO has found a wooden shipwreck during excavation works for a new office block in the Clock Tower precinct of the V&A Waterfront, the South African Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra) said on Thursday.
Workers last week uncovered a section of wooden wreck covered by ballast, cannon balls and a small, broken cannon.
“This wreck represents a rare reminder of the secret, and often forgotten, maritime heritage of Cape Town,” Sahra said in a statement.
Large portions of the city and harbour now cover the old anchorage, beaches and colonial coastal infrastructure. Ships driven ashore by strong winter storms once littered the shore around Woodstock, Paarden Eiland and the sea floor from Greenpoint to Salt River.
Academics, students and volunteers are carefully brushing soil from the remains of the unknown wreck in an effort to record its structure and collect data that may give clues to its age and identity, while construction activities continue unabated.
The team has been assembled from individuals who recently attended training and field school activities offered by Sahra, as part of an ongoing maritime archaeology development programme funded by a grant from the Dutch government.
“The programme is raising awareness of maritime and underwater cultural heritage in South Africa and is making important links between South Africa’s varied cultures,” Sahra said.
Participants in the programme are studying sites as diverse as Lake Fundudzi, in Limpopo, stonewalled fish weirs on the east coast, the maritime landscape of Table Bay, and shipwrecks.
“The programme is also building capacity in marine and heritage institutions which would assist with the management of submerged sites and is getting divers and other interested communities involved in recording wrecks around the coast,” Sahra added.