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http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2014/05/did_humans_kill_off_the_neanderthals.html

When It Comes to Neanderthals, Humans May Be the Borg

Posted by Ross Pomeroy May 1, 2014

 

In 1856, a group of quarrymen discovered the remnants of a strange skeleton in Germany's lush Neander Valley. They thought it was a bear. They were wrong. In fact, the quarrymen had unearthed the first scientifically recognized remains of Homo neanderthalensis, an ancient human ancestor.

 

Colloquially known as Neanderthals, the species quickly became synonymous with the prototypical "cavemen," you know, the grunting, apish type. Stocky, bigheaded, and wide-nosed, they fit that brutish description well. Neanderthals' simpleton status also made it intuitively clear why they died out: they were plainly inferior to humans, so when Neanderthals and Homo sapiens -- humans -- began cohabitating the same regions of Europe and the Middle East around 50,000 years ago, humans either outcompeted them or actively hunted them to extinction.

 

In the past few decades, however, anthropological discoveries have contradicted those stereotypical views. Neanderthals actually had slightly larger brains than modern humans! Moreover, they were accomplished big game hunters, crafted advanced tools, ritualistically buried their dead, and utilized language and symbols.

 

According to archaeologists Paola Villa and Wil Roebroeks, these recent discoveries counter the notion that human superiority somehow led to the demise of the Neanderthals. They state their case in the form of a systematic review of archaeological records, published in the online open-access journal PLoS ONE.

 

The extinction and competition hypotheses for the demise of the Neanderthals, notably suggested by interdisciplinary scientist and author Jared Diamond, hinge on the idea that humans were more advanced than Neanderthals. Commonly claimed are the following: that humans had more communicative abilities, were more efficient hunters, had superior weaponry, ate a broader diet, and had more extensive social networks.

 

But the archaeological record doesn't back any of those claims, the authors found.

 

"The results of our study imply that single-factor explanations for the disappearance of the Neanderthals are not warranted any more," the duo writes.

 

Villa and Roebroeks' findings raise an intriguing question: If Neanderthals weren't driven to extinction, well, then, where did they go?

 

According to Villa and Roebroeks, the best explanation now is familiar to anyone who's acquainted with the Borg, a ruthless collective of cybernetic beings from Star Trek. Neanderthals were assimilated... by us. That's right: Humanity is the Borg.

 

In 2010, scientists discovered that between one and four percent of the DNA of modern humans living outside of Africa is derived from Neanderthals, providing clear evidence that the two species were interbreeding to some extent tens of thousands of years ago. In January of this year, Benjamin Vernot and Joshua Akey of the University of Washington published a paper in Science that corroborated those results. They found that a fifth of Neanderthals' genetic code lives on within our species as a whole.

 

While interbreeding may be the leading explanation for the demise of the Neanderthals today, it may not be tomorrow. There are few topics in science more convoluted than human evolution. But when it comes to unearthing our past, our curiosity compels us to keep digging.

 

Resistance, after all, is futile.

 

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140430-neanderthals-cook-food-evolution-science/

Hot Stew in the Ice Age? Evidence Shows Neanderthals Boiled Food

An ancient diet expert suggests our early cousins knew how to boil their meals.

Dan Vergano

National Geographic

PUBLISHED APRIL 30, 2014

 

Neanderthal cooking likely wouldn't have won any prizes on Top Chef, but a paleontologist suggests that our ancient cousins knew how to cook a mean stew, without even a stone pot to their name.

 

"I think it's pretty likely the Neanderthals boiled," said University of Michigan paleontologist John Speth at a recent meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Austin, Texas. "They were around for a long time, and they were very clever with fire."

 

Neanderthals were a species of early humans who lived in Europe and the Near East until about 30,000 years ago. Conventional wisdom holds that boiling to soften food or render fat from bones may have been one of the advantages that allowed Homo sapiens to thrive, while Neanderthals died out. (Related: "Surprise! 20 Percent of Neanderthal Genome Lives on in Modern Humans, Scientists Find.")

 

But based on evidence from ancient bones, spears, and porridge, Speth believes our Stone Age cousins likely boiled their food. He suggests that Neanderthals boiled using only a skin bag or a birch bark tray by relying on a trick of chemistry: Water will boil at a temperature below the ignition point of almost any container, even flammable bark or hides.

 

"You can boil in just about anything as long as you take it off the flame pretty quickly," Speth says. His presentation included video of water boiling in a paper cup (the water keeps the paper from reaching its ignition temperature) and mention of scenes in Jean Auel's 1980 novel, Clan of the Cave Bear (later a movie), in which Neanderthals boiled stews in hide pouches.

 

"This wasn't an invention of some brainy modern people," Speth says. (Related: "Neanderthals Lived in Small, Isolated Populations, Gene Analysis Shows.")

 

While conceding that Neanderthals were handy with wood and fire, paleontologists such as Mary Stiner of the University of Arizona in Tucson want to let Speth's idea simmer for a while before they swallow it.

 

"Whether they went as far as boiling stuff in birch bark containers or in hides is harder to evaluate," Stiner says. "I am not convinced."

 

The use of fire by humans goes back more than 300,000 years in Europe, where evidence is seen in Neanderthal hearths. (Related: "Oldest Known Hearth Found in Israel Cave.")

 

But most research has supported the idea that Stone Age boiling, which relied on heating stones in fire pits and dropping them into water, arrived on the scene too late for Neanderthals.

 

Evidence of cracked "boiling stones" in caves used by early modern humans, for example, goes back only about 26,000 years, too recent for Neanderthals. And pottery for more conventional boiling appears to be only about 20,000 years old.

 

But who needs boiling stones or pots? Speth suggests that Neanderthals boiled foods in birch bark twisted into trays, a technology that prehistoric people used to boil maple syrup from tree sap.

 

Archaeologists have demonstrated that Neanderthals relied on birch tar as an adhesive for hafting spear points as long as 200,000 years ago. Making birch tar requires clever cooking in an oxygen-free container, says paleontologist Michael Bisson of Canada's McGill University.

 

"I've burned myself trying to do it," Bisson says, adding that Neanderthals were plenty clever when it came to manipulating birch. They likely ignited rolled-up birch bark "cigars" and plunged them into holes to cook the tar in an oxygen-free environment.

 

If the tar is exposed to oxygen in the air as it cooks, "it explodes," Bisson adds.

 

Supporting the boiling idea, Speth said that animal bones found in Neanderthal settings are 98 percent free of scavenger's gnawing marks, which he says suggests the fat had been cooked off.

 

And some grains found in the teeth of a Neanderthal buried in Iraq's Shanidar Cave site appear to have been cooked, according to a 2011 Proceedings of the National Academies of Science report.

 

"It is speculative, but I think it is pretty likely that they knew how to boil," Speth says.

 

In a separate talk at the meeting, University of Michigan paleontologist Andrew White noted recent evidence that Neanderthal mothers weaned their children at an earlier age than human mothers typically do. He said the early transition from milk to food supports the theory that Neanderthals boiled their youngsters' food to make it more digestible.

 

The idea that Neanderthals could probably boil their food first came to Speth as he watched an episode of the TV show Survivorman. Stuck in East Africa with only dirty water to drink, host Les Stroud sterilized the muddy liquid by boiling it in a plastic bag.

 

"Who says you can't learn anything from TV?" says Speth. "I figured if we could boil water in a plastic bag, then Neanderthals could do it in a birch tray."

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27224243

Prehistoric North Sea 'Atlantis' hit by 5m tsunami

1 May 2014 Last updated at 01:28

By Paul Rincon

Science editor, BBC News website

 

A prehistoric "Atlantis" in the North Sea may have been abandoned after being hit by a 5m tsunami 8,200 years ago.

 

The wave was generated by a catastrophic subsea landslide off the coast of Norway.

 

Analysis suggests the tsunami over-ran Doggerland, a low-lying landmass that has since vanished beneath the waves.

 

"It was abandoned by Mesolithic tribes about 8,000 years ago, which is when the Storegga slide happened," said Dr Jon Hill from Imperial College London.

 

The impact... would have been massive - comparable to the Japanese tsunami of 2011”

Dr Jon Hill

Imperial College London

 

The wave could have wiped out the last people to occupy this island.

 

The research has been submitted to the journal Ocean Modelling and is being presented at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna this week.

 

Dr Hill and his Imperial-based colleagues Gareth Collins, Alexandros Avdis, Stephan Kramer and Matthew Piggott used computer simulations to explore the likely effects of the Norwegian landslide.

 

He told BBC News: "We were the first ever group to model the Storegga tsunami with Doggerland in place. Previous studies have used the modern bathymetry (ocean depth)."

 

As such, the study gives the most detailed insight yet into the likely impacts of the huge landslip and its associated tsunami wave on this lost landmass.

 

During the last Ice Age, sea levels were much lower; at its maximum extent Doggerland connected Britain to mainland Europe.

 

It was possible for human hunters to walk from what is now northern Germany across to East Anglia.

 

But from 20,000 years ago, sea levels began to rise, gradually flooding the vast landscape.

 

By around 10,000 years ago, the area would still have been one of the richest areas for hunting, fishing and fowling (bird catching) in Europe.

 

A large freshwater basin occupied the centre of Doggerland, fed by the River Thames from the west and by the Rhine in the east. Its lagoons, marshes and mudflats would have been a haven for wildlife.

 

"In Mesolithic times, this was paradise," explained Bernhard Weninger, from the University of Cologne in Germany, who was not involved with the present study.

 

But 2,000 years later, Doggerland had become a low-lying, marshy island covering an area about the size of Wales.

 

The North Sea has given up wonderful prehistoric finds, like these bone points now kept at the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, The Netherlands

 

The nets of North Sea fishing boats have pulled up a wealth of prehistoric bones belonging to the animals that once roamed this prehistoric "Garden of Eden".

 

But the waters have also given up a smaller cache of ancient human remains and artefacts from which scientists have been able to obtain radiocarbon dates.

 

And they show that none of these relics of Mesolithic habitation on Doggerland occur later than the time of the tsunami.

 

The Storegga slide involved the collapse of some 3,000 cubic km of sediment.

 

"If you took that sediment and laid it over Scotland, it would cover it to a depth of 8m," said Dr Hill.

 

Given that the majority of Doggerland was by this time less than 5m in height, it would have experienced widespread flooding.

 

"It is therefore plausible that the Storegga slide was indeed the cause of the abandonment of Doggerland in the Mesolithic," the team writes in their Ocean Modelling paper.

 

Dr Hill told BBC News: "The impact on anyone who was living on Doggerland at the time would have been massive - comparable to the Japanese tsunami of 2011."

 

But Bernhard Weninger suspects that Doggerland had already been vacated by the time of the Storegga slide.

 

"There may have been a few people coming with boats to fish, but I doubt it was continuously settled," he explained.

 

"I think it was so wet by this time that the good days of Doggerland were already gone."

 

Prof Vince Gaffney, an archaeologist at the University of Birmingham, said: "I think they (the researchers) are probably right, because the tsunami would have been a catastrophic event."

 

But he stressed that the archaeological record was sparse, and explained that two axes from the Neolithic period (after Storegga) had been retrieved from the North Sea's Brown Banks area.

 

It is possible these were dropped from a boat - accidentally or as a ritual offering - but it is also unclear precisely when Doggerland finally succumbed to the waves.

 

The ancient landmass of Doggerland took several thousand years to flood

 

"Even after major volcanic eruptions, people go back, sometimes because they can't afford not to but also because the resources are there," said Prof Gaffney, who has authored a book, Europe's Lost World: The Rediscovery of Doggerland.

 

The tsunami would also have affected what is now Scotland and the eastern coast of England, as well as the northern coast of continental Europe.

 

The wave that hit the north-east coast of Scotland is estimated to have been some 14m high, though it is unclear whether this area was inhabited at the time.

 

But waves measuring some 5m in height would have hit the eastern coast of England, and there is good evidence humans were in this area 8,000 years ago.

 

Much of this region would also have been low-lying, suggesting the impact on Mesolithic people who depended substantially on coastal resources such as shellfish, would have been significant here, too.

 

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/03012014/article/archaeologists-uncover-ancient-punic-vessels-in-balearic-islands

Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Punic Vessels in Balearic Islands

Thu, May 01, 2014

 

The remains evidence the oldest documented shipwreck to date off the coast of Menorca.

Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Punic Vessels in Balearic Islands

The discovery was first made by students in 2013 while investigating underwater shipwreck remains near the ancient port of Sanitja on the island of Menorca, one of a number of picturesque islands that make up an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea.

They were ancient Punic amphorae, more than 150 of them, lying in situ, still at rest where a seagoing vessel identified with the site known as the Binisafuller wreck gave up its cargo more than 2,000 years ago. Archaeologists date the amphorae to between 325-275 BC. It makes the shipwreck the oldest documented one in Menorca.

 

It is a significant discovery because the remains of the port of Sanitja have been most often associated with the adjacent Roman period city of Sanisera. In recent decades, surveys and excavations revealed structures and artifacts at the Sanisera location that revealed a long occupation of the city from the Roman Late Republican period until Late Antiquity. Surveys and excavations have been conducted at the site annually through an extensive field school under the auspices of the Ecomuseum de Cavalleria school. Although much of the work is conducted on land, a substantial aspect of the efforts involves underwater archaeology, where professional archaeologists and students will don scuba equipment and explore the depths to identify, record, and recover artifacts and structural remains of the port that served the city. Thus far, archaeologists have uncovered evidence such as structural timber remains from shipwrecks, numerous Roman amphorae, anchors, lead stocks and weights, and other cargo features and finds. 

"Even though the northern coastline [of Menorca] is bare, uneven and rugged," wrote excavations director Fernando Contreras in a recent report, "the Port of Sanitja has always offered shelter to sailors and their boats. Even when the Tramontane blows strongly, the waters remain calm because of a submerged natural dike located at its entrance. For this reason, despite its compact dimensions, the port presents excellent conditions for the entrance and anchorage of vessels, and thus different cultures have continued to establish settlements here or use this enclave for a variety of purposes, such as the Arabs in Medieval times and the English in the Modern Period."*

Clearly this was the case for the Romans, as well --- and now, for an even earlier group of people, the Punics.

"This discovery increases the knowledge of navigation and the Punic trade in the Balearic Islands between the fourth and third centuries BC, something still quite unknown in our days," says Contreras.**

But, as Contreras emphasizes, Sanitja is about much more than Punic amphorae and shipwrecks.

"The existence of large amounts of artifacts from different periods speaks to the continuing activity that has taken place on the North coast of Menorca. The combination of land and underwater archaeological investigations in Sanitja are already providing excellent results which will be explored in depth during the next few years."*

More information about the Sanitja excavations and how one can participate can be found at the project website.

 

http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/over-1000-mayan-codices-discovered-in-yucatan-ruins/?utm_content=buffera255e&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

OVER 1,000 MAYAN CODICES DISCOVERED IN YUCATAN RUINS

Uxmal

 

Deep inside the jungle of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, near the pre-hispanic city of Uxmal, a team of archeologist from the University of Boston in collaboration with local archeologists from the University of Mexico, have uncovered yet another pyramidal structure estimated to be 1,100 years old. But even more surprisingly enough, satellite imagery confirmed the existence of a secret chamber where the team found thousands of mayan codices, a discovery that could shatter previous views and shed a new light on our understanding of mayan culture and the sudden and tragic destruction of their civilization.

 

Professor Jenny Rothsgard from the research team from Boston was in for a huge surprise when she fell first hand on the codices, which only three copies remain in the world today. «Most copies were burned during the Spanish conquest» she concedes. «Most of them were destroyed by Bishop Diego de Landa in July of 1562. They were deemed diabolical at the time by the authorities, who burned all copies. For a long time, archeologists were hoping that a Mayan ruler might have hid some from the Spaniards. This might just be our luck!» she adds, very enthusiast.

 

«If these are proven to be authenticated by carbon dating, this could be the find of the century» explains world renowned expert on Mayan writing, Dr. Pizarro, from University of Mexico. «They seem to have been made of similar material as the original ones, that is of the bark of the amate, or wild fig tree, which the Nahuatl people called Huun. Yet scientific tests will prove without an inch of a doubt if we are in the presence of the real deal or if these are forgeries» he adds.

 

Forgeries have been known to have been made in the 20th century. Two elaborate forged codices were in the possession of William Randolph Hearst, a private collector. Even though the debate still fires on today as to the authenticity of the these two last mentioned codices, chances are that the newly found ones have a good probability of being real, explains expert John H. Rawls.

 

«The emplacement of the ruin, which is totally out of reach today for most humans, hidden behind the thick foliage of the Yucatan jungle, makes it more probable that these are authentic documents. Possibly hid here by an ancient Mayan ruler who feared, and for a good reason, the ultimate destruction of these historically and culturally significant documents» he concludes.

 

- See more at: http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/over-1000-mayan-codices-discovered-in-yucatan-ruins/?utm_content=buffera255e&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer#sthash.jdTqtN7P.dpuf

 

http://www.heritagedaily.com/2014/05/genetic-methods-for-sex-determination-on-the-canary-islands-aborigines-remains/102934

Genetic methods for sex determination on the Canary Islands aborigines’ remains

ANTHROPOLOGY May 1,

 

Researchers from the University of La Laguna have applied a new genetic method to analyse archaeological remains that enables the sex of skeletal remains from the indigenous peoples of the island of El Hierro to be determined..

 

This type of work is essential to discover more about ancient communities when the complete skeletons of individuals are not available.

 

Archaeologists, anthropologists and forensic doctors use the bone measurements to know the sex of the skeletal remains they are studying in their investigations. However, this is not an easy job with ancient populations and when the complete skeleton is not available.

 

Researchers from the University of La Laguna (ULL) have applied a new technique based on genetic analysis to determine the sex of these bones of the indigenous peoples of the Canary Islands.

 

“We have determined the sex by genetic methods on 52 tibias belonging to a pre-hispanic population from the archaeological site of Punta Azul on the Island of El Hierro. The identification of 18 women and 34 men and the subsequent discrimination by combining various anthropometric variables, shows a high precision percentage of 94.2% in the diagnosis,” Alejandra Calderón Ordóñez, researcher at the ULL and co-author of the article published in the ‘Journal of Archaeological Science’, told SINC.

The anthropometric variables include a series of measurements which, when combined in a mathematical formula, enable the most probable sex to be assigned to incomplete archaeological remains.

 

“The problem”, adds the expert, “is that these functions vary between different populations and between the same populations over time, which means they are not always valid if they are applied to different populations to those for which they were carried out”.

Sex determination through genetic procedures, on the other hand, has become a reliable reference technique given that it enables a correct diagnosis that can be compared with the measurable characteristics of male and female bones.

 

“Sex determination using this procedure is not always possible with all the bones discovered in an excavation given the state of preservation of the remains as well as the high cost involved in the procedure. Despite this, it is an essential tool,” she adds.

 

Measuring tibias and analysing DNA

 

With the remains from Punta Azul, the researchers used a fragment of the amelogenin gene. As Calderón explains, this gene is present in the X chromosome and in the Y chromosome however, there is a small deletion – a special type of chromosomal anomaly – in X, which makes it ideal for sex determination by DNA amplification.

 

“Taking into account the actual characteristics of the DNA in old remains, an initial real time quantitative analysis of the mitochondrial DNA was taken to verify the state of preservation of the samples,” she explained.

 

Only those in which the mitochondrial DNA could be amplified were selected to analyse the amelogenin gene. It has been confirmed that if there is no mitochondrial DNA (multiple copies found per cell), the results obtained from a nuclear DNA amplification such as amelogenin are not very reliable.

 

The amelogenin was analysed in 53 of a total of 59 tibias and positive results were obtained in 52. All this shows that the sample was well-preserved.

 

Also, the tibias were measured and the results were combined with the previous genetic analysis. “This research shows that by studying the amelogenin, discriminant functions can be created for a specific population, which can later be applied to other remains from that same population with a higher degree of reliability,” outlined the scientist.

 

The importance of this lies in proving the usefulness of the amelogenin gene as a standard for gender identification. This opens the door to the creation of new functions for various populations, with different bones and even improving some of those that already exist. The method could be applied to other populations of different ages and ethnic origins.

 

Header Image Credit : Credit: Universidad de La Laguna

 

Contributing Source : Plataforma SINC

 

© Copyright 2014 HeritageDaily - Heritage & Archaeology News

 

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/amateur-treasure-hunter-uncovers-7th-century-golden-fish-1.1778845

Amateur treasure hunter uncovers 7th century golden fish

Barry Shannon unearths artefact in Co Down field four days after taking up hobby

Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 15:36

 

A fisherman who turned his hand to treasure hunting landed a rare golden fish on one of his first forays with a metal detector.

An inquest to determine whether the fish constituted treasure under the law heard that Barry Shannon, from Ardglass in Co Down, unearthed the decorative 7th century Anglo Saxon artefact in a relative’s field only four days after taking up the new hobby.

The 32-year-old was scanning the farm land owned by his aunt, Jean McKee, in the townland of Ballyalton near Downpatrick in the pouring rain last March when he heard a beep, Belfast Coroner’s Court was told.

After digging down a foot, he discovered the shiny 3in (7.6cm) long fish-shaped object, which experts now believe is part of an ornate early medieval belt buckle.

But given his other pastime, Mr Shannon told coroner Suzanne Anderson he initially mistook the item for an everyday bit of fishing kit.

“I’m a fisherman and it looked like a spinner you put on the end of a line to catch a fish,” he said.

Mr Shannon said the discovery was one of his first since taking up metal detecting.

“I only started four days previously - and that was only my fourth time at it,” he said.

Ms Anderson joked: “This was beginner’s luck then?”

Mr Shannon told the court he showed the item to relations and friends over the next few days and came to the conclusion the object might be not run-of-the-mill after all.

The local museum was contacted, but experts in Northern Ireland were unsure what he had discovered, as there was nothing else like it in collections the length and breadth of the island.

Their confusion was explained when a specialist from Cambridge University was called in to examine the piece.

It turned out it was Anglo Saxon in origin, and as the Anglo Saxons never settled in Ireland there was good reason why finding part of one of their belt buckles in a field in Co Down was all but unheard of.

Dr Greer Ramsey, the curator of Armagh Museum, told the court there were a number of theories as to how the fish ended up in Ireland, but nothing definite.

“In this case there isn’t a conclusive answer,” he said, relaying the conclusions of the Cambridge University analysis.

The expert said it could have been brought to Co Down through trade networks between Britain and Ireland, during one of two Anglo Saxon raids on the island in the late 600s, or as a result of the movements of Irish clerics travelling back and forth across the sea in a effort to spread Christianity.

“The tantalising thing is as this is quite rare, perhaps this points to something even more attractive existing in Ireland - perhaps even the belt buckle itself,” he said.

Ms Anderson suggested this opened up an interesting prospect for Mr Shannon.

“Are you going to go out and look for the rest of this belt and buckle?” she asked him.

Laughing, he replied: “Hopefully someone else will do it for me.”

Dr Ramsey said the age of the item and its content of precious metal - the foil casing of the fish is 85 per cent gold and 12 per cent silver - meant it constituted an item of treasure under the Treasure Act.

Delivering her findings, Ms Anderson declared the artefact to be treasure.

It will now go to the British Museum for valuation.

Mr Greer said it was anticipated that the item would eventually be purchased by National Museums Northern Ireland and would likely end up on display in the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

Concluding proceedings, Ms Anderson said it would be good if a wider audience could enjoy the artefact. “I would congratulate you on a wonderful find,” she said to Mr Shannon.

 

Press Association

 

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/diving-into-history/?utm_source=Hootsuite&utm_source=Hootsuite&utm_medium=Hootsuite&utm_campaign=Hootsuite+Conversion

DIVING INTO HISTORY

English Heritage opens first submarine dive trail

30 APRIL 2014

 

Britain's first underwater submarine dive trail opened today (Wednesday 30 April, 2014)  on the protected wreck of HMS/mA1 - the first British-designed and built submarine used by the Royal Navy which sank in 1911 in only 39 feet (12 metres) of water in the Solent.

 

Launched by English Heritage and the Nautical Archaeology Society, the HMS/mA1 submarine dive trial is the fourth underwater tourist trail for protected wrecks to open since 2009 and is part of an English Heritage project to create up to a dozen trails by 2018 for historic wreck sites dating from the 17th to the mid-20th centuries.

The trails that are already running are three sunken wooden warships and have attracted hundreds of licensed divers. They are:

HMS Colossus, a 74-gun warship built in 1787 which sank off the Isles of Scilly in 1798;

the Coronation built in 1685 and lost off the coast of Plymouth in 1691;

and the 'Norman's Bay Wreck', possibly a Dutch ship which sank during the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690 near Bexhill on Sea in Sussex.

 

Built in July 1902 by Vickers Sons & Maxim Ltd, the HMS/mA1 submarine was actually sunk twice, first in 1904 and again in 1911 while unmanned and being used for underwater target practice using an automatic pilot. It was designated in 1998 under the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973).

 

Licensed divers on the new trail will be able to see a complete submarine resting upright on the seabed with the bow clearly visible. Divers will be given an underwater guide to help them navigate the wreck and recognise key features such as the conning tower, torpedo loading hatch, and the stern towing and lifting cable.

Terry Newman, Assistant Maritime Designation Adviser for English Heritage, said: "We are diving into history with the launch of our first submarine trail. Protected wreck sites are as much part of our national heritage as castles and country houses, although they are not as widely accessible unfortunately! By giving licensed divers access to these historically and archaeologically important wrecks, we are encouraging greater understanding and recognition of England's underwater heritage."

Mark Beattie-Edwards, Programme Director, Nautical Archaeology Society said: "This is the second trail that we have designed for accessing protected shipwrecks. We are sure that the visiting divers will be amazed at the condition of HMS/mA1 which despite having spent over 100 years on the seabed is still to a great degree intact. It is our hope that visitors will be inspired to help us to protect other examples of our maritime history that now lie on the seabed."

Divers wishing to dive the trail must be licensed to access it. Access is being managed by the Nautical Archaeology Society and the wreck's licensee, Martin Davies. Licenses are issued by English Heritage. A fifth dive trail is due to open in June for the paddle steamer Iona II which sank off Lundy Island en route to the Bahamas in February 1864.