The Ivory Stash
The “Born Jesus” was a trading ship, designed to import and export different goods around the world. It went missing in 1533, about 500 years ago, which is why nobody was expecting to find it again in the 21st century. Well, not only was it found, but the ivory haul on it was in surprisingly good shape! After being examined and analyzed, scientists have been able to trace the ivory to seventeen elephant herds that used to wander around West Africa. They even discovered that two of those herds are still active!
Looking into the tusks has revealed more than just the origin of the elephants they came from. Researchers were also able to determine what kind of water and vegetation those elephants consumed. The research has shown that those ancient elephants roamed the West African forests and savannas. This is surprising because the general assumption up until then was that the elephants started inhabiting those areas only in the 20th century.
What Does It All Mean?
Having so many tusks from so many elephant herds aboard a single ship suggests that there were a few different West African communities that supplied ivory to the rest of the world. It also sheds some light on the ivory industry of the 16th century.