The shipwreck in a diamond mine: analysing the ivory cargo of a 16th century Portuguese merchant ship

In southwest Namibia in 2008, diamond mining uncovered the remains of the Portuguese vessel Bom Jesus, which wrecked off the coast of Namibia in 1533 AD. Over forty tons of cargo was found, including gold and silver coins, copper ingots, navigational equipment, and 100 complete tusks of elephant ivory. We used a combination of analyses to source the tusks to West African habitats, revealing patterns of ivory acquisition and circulation during the formative stages of maritime trade that linked Europe, Africa, and Asia.