Tinged green by age, copper sheathing from the disintegrated wooden hull of a newfound shipwreck sits deep in the Gulf of Mexico (map), where the craft sank as far back as 200 years ago. Despite clues found in surrounding artifacts—muskets, beer bottles, an anchor—the ship's exact age, origin, and purpose remain unknown.
To the right of the bow are two lead Roman numerals—now too twisted to decipher—which would have been used to gauge water displacement and prevent overloading.
Hinted at by oil-exploration sonar readings in 2011, the roughly 80-foot (24-meter) ship was discovered off Texas last month during a 56-day expedition by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
One of several scientists to watch the discovery unfold remotely via live video, NOAA maritime archaeologist Frank Cantelas said it's too soon to know who was aboard the ship and why.