By Cailey Rizzo
December 18, 2019
Marine archaeologists Dr. Chris Horrell and Salvador Estrada Apatiga take measurements of a 16th century anchor that may represent ground tackle used during the scuttling of Hernán Cortés' fleet of 1519. The anchor was discovered during excavations in 2019.
Courtesy of Jonathan Kingston

Anchors that may have belonged to the ships of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés were found in the Mexican Gulf Coast, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) announced on Monday.

The anchors, which archaeologists believe date back 500 years, were found off the coast of Villa Rica, just north of the port city of Veracruz. The timeline would fit perfectly with that of Cortés as records show he landed in Veracruz in April 1519.

Dive teams investigate one of the many anomalies discovered during the magnetometer survey of the waters thought to contain the remains of Hernán Cortés' scuttled fleet of 1519. In the 500 years since the event, a lot of sand has moved into the area covering the location of these archaeological sites. This sand must be carefully removed to reveal pieces of the fleet buried beneath it. On the right of the frame is a white string delineating the search area
Courtesy of Jonathan Kingston
Villa Rica is the town founded by Hernán Cortés in 1519 in order to escape legal obligation to Diego Velázquez, the Governor of Cuba and sponsor of Cortés' expedition. By establishing the town Cortés was answerable only to Charles V, the King of Spain. It is here that Cortés' conquest of Mexico formally began and here that he scuttled his fleet to prevent a mutiny by his men in July of 1519.
Courtesy of Jonathan Kingston

The anchors were buried beneath at least 30 feet of sediment — and archaeologists believe there may be more artifacts nearby, although it is not guaranteed that the anchors belonged to Cortes’s fleet as another explorer showed up in the same area just after.

But it’s widely believed that Cortés sank his ships in that spot to stop dissident members of his army from defecting to Cuba.

“The Conquest of Mexico was a seminal event in human history, and these shipwrecks, if we can find them, will be symbols of the cultural collision that led to what is now the West, geopolitical and socially speaking,” marine archaeologist Frederick Hanselmann said in a statement.

Another anchor was found last year less than 1,000 feet away from the new discoveries. That anchor was determined to have been created between 1450 and 1530 from the wood of an oak tree that grows in northern Spain. Although neither of the most-recently found anchors contain wood, they’re made of a similar design.

Hernán Cortés' fort in Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz - built in 1519. It is the first major European structure built in Mexico. Villa Rica or the Rich Town of the True Cross is a town and colony formed by Hernán Cortés in 1519 in order to escape legal obligation to Diego Velázquez, the Governor of Cuba and sponsor of Cortés' expedition. By forming the town, Cortés was answerable only to Charles V, the King of Spain. It is here that Cortés' conquest of Mexico formally began and here that he scuttled his fleet to prevent a mutiny by his men in July of 1519.
Courtesy of Jonathan Kingston

The anchors will be reburied in the sediment where they were found to preserve them.

This year marked the 500-year anniversary of Cortés’s invasion.

In honor of the milestone, Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador asked Spain to apologize to indigienous Mexicans for abuses committed during the conquest.

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