In 2015, Éveha International took part in underwater excavations carried out on the islands of Terceira and Faial in the Azores, in collaboration with the CHAM (Centre for overseas research in archaeology and history of the NOVA University of Lisbon) and under the direction of José Antonio Bettencourt.
José Antonio Bettencourt (Centro de História d’Aquém et d’Além-Mar, University of Lisbon)
Location and historical summary
The Portuguese expansion and the exploration of the Atlantic, initiated in the 15th century by Infante Henrique, made way for the rise of European navigation, culminating in the early 16th century with the establishment of new maritime routes. By taking advantage of the navigational constraints imposed by winds and currents, the Azores archipelago quickly took on a strategic role in geopolitics and international trading.
It is within this context that the military and trading ports of Angra do Heroismo on the island of Terceira and Horta on the island of Faial established themselves by turns as essential technical and commercial ports of call for ships operating between the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe.
The Azorean shores were visited by Spanish galleons on their way back from the Carreira da Índia or by ships carrying out transactions between the Portuguese crown and its overseas trading posts.
In this respect, in the 16th century the port of Angra was endowed with an imposing military building and customs and defence body, the Provedoria das Armadas, which from 1527 controlled and guaranteed protection for the Portuguese fleets returning from the Indies, Brazil and Africa. Trans-island commercial routes also influenced the growth of the town up until the 18th century.
However, despite a favourable natural location for the establishment of a harbour area– protected by the volcanic slopes of the Monte Brasil, the port suffered violent storms which made mooring dangerous. As a result, more than 70 shipwrecks and an graveyard of anchors have been recorded in the Bay of Angra do Heroismo. This extensive submerged cultural heritage contains much evidence for the evolution of naval architectural traditions and European trading between the 15th and 19th centuries.
In 2005 the Regional Government of the Azores created the ‘Underwater Archaeological Park’, a measure aimed at protecting a number of the archaeological sites in the Bay of Angra.
This initiative was followed by an interdisciplinary project (Pias: 2006-2009) seeking to gain a greater understanding of the role played by the port of Angra in transatlantic navigation from the 16th to 19th centuries, in particular through preliminary studies of several underwater sites (wrecks Angra A, B, D, E and F). Comprehensive bibliographical research was carried out in conjunction with the initial site drawings and monitoring of the uncovered structures.
A new research programme was launched by the CHAM in 2012, with excavations beginning on the Angra B wreck, a 16th century Iberian ship. Work continued in 2013 and involved the opening of sondages in the central part of the hull.
Alongside this research, 3 years of pre-development excavations took place on the island of Faial, from 2009 to 2012, as part of the construction of a new terminal at the port of Horta. The remains of a trading ship along with its cargo of ivory were found (BH001). This vessel was probably English, and dates to the early 18th century. Two 19th century shipwrecks were also identified and excavated (BH004 and BH006).
How Eveha International Participates
Underwater excavation Recording
Centro de História d’Aquém et d’Além-Mar (CHAM)