Spain reveals shipwreck treasure

  • 30 November 2012
  • From the section Europe
A gold tobacco box from the shipwreck of a 1804 galleon
Image caption A gold tobacco box was among the items discovered on the shipwreck

Spanish authorities have revealed some of the treasures from a ship that sank more than 200 years ago.

The Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes galleon sank off Portugal's coast near the straits of Gibraltar in 1804 with more than 500,000 silver coins.

Spain won a five-year legal dispute to claim ownership for the treasures found by a US firm.

Only a small portion of the treasure, estimated to be worth $500m (£310m; 385m euros) has been displayed.

A block of encrusted silver coins stuck together after centuries under water, two gold tobacco boxes and a bronze pulley were among some of the items shown.

After it has been fully catalogued - a process that began when the treasure arrived from Florida in February - the silver treasure will be put on display in Spain's museum of underwater archaeology in Cartagena.

So far, experts have counted 574,553 silver coins and 212 gold coins, as well as other items.

The metals were mined and the coins minted in the Andes, from places that are now in Bolivia, Chile and Peru.

Spanish officials say that they never intend to sell the treasure.

"It's invaluable," Elisa de Cabo, the culture ministry's deputy director of national heritage, said according to the Associated Press.

"How would you put a price on the Mona Lisa?"

Obtaining the ship's haul was the culmination of a long legal fight.

Ms de Cabo said Spanish authorities are still trying to convince a US judge that the American company that found the wreck, Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration, should also pay Spain's legal costs.

The company has said in statements that it had spent $2.6m salvaging, transporting, storing and conserving the treasure.

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