Mary Beth Norton is a professor of early American History, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and co-leader of Cornell University’s “History of Exploration” course with Astronomy Professor and Mars rover principal investigator Steven Squyres. She calls the possible identification of the Santa Maria an opportunity to reinterpret what we know about this explorer and his crew.

Norton says:

“If Barry Clifford is correct that he has found the wreck of the Santa Maria, this potentially marks a great step forward in our understanding of Columbus’s crucial first voyage to America in 1492.

“Even though Columbus and his crew salvaged some material from the vessel before it sank, and the site itself has evidently been looted since it was initially reported in 2003, it's likely that many important artifacts lie beneath what looks like a pile of rocks on the sea floor. We can't know exactly what is there until the site is investigated further.

“But the surprising finds at other early archaeological sites, including underwater sites, like the wreck in England of the Tudor ship Mary Rose, or the revelations at Jamestown, suggest that historians will have exciting opportunities to reinterpret what we know about Columbus and his men.”

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