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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 July, 2005, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Wreck discovery wins protection
One of the cannons
The order will keep treasure-hunters away from the wreck site
An important wreck site found off the Dorset coast has won vital protection to keep treasure-hunters away.

Unlicensed diving and excavation of the site off West Bay has been made illegal under a government designation order granted last week.

The wreck was discovered by chance last summer by two divers who uncovered several cannon and an anchor.

The bronze cannon could be Portugese. dating from the 17th Century, but the wreck's origin is still unknown.

The nature of the decoration means that it is certainly not English
Royal Armoury spokesman

Further site assessments are needed to identify the type and origin of the ship.

Photographs of the cannon have already been examined by the Royal Armoury.

A spokesman said: "The nature of the decoration means that it is certainly not English.

"Interestingly enough, we have two cannon of Portuguese origin dated 1627 with just this sort of decoration."

Gordon Le Pard, marine archaeologist with the Dorset Coast Forum, said: "This is a very exciting discovery.

"It is particularly pleasing that in 2005, when we are celebrating everything to do with the sea, a major discovery like this is made off the Dorset coast.

"It shows that there are still important finds to be made."

Archaeologists survey 1783 wreck
19 Jun 05 |  Bristol/Somerset
Divers unearth Bronze Age hoard
08 Mar 05 |  Northamptonshire

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