In the seventeenth century, Port Royal was a legendary city, a city of vast wealth and pleasure-seeking, the home port of the buccaneers. Today, Port Royal is a city of legends, legends of the 1692 earthquake and tidal wave that caused the city to sink beneath the sea, and legends of the fortunes that may be buried there. Robert F. Marx was one of the men caught up in those legends, and this book describes the fulfillment of his childhood dream: a two-and-a-half year exploration of the historic Jamaican port. The first investigation of the site by a trained marine archaeologist, his expedition discovered thousands of perfectly preserved artifacts of life in the 17th century city: silver and pewter ware; brass, iron and wooden tools; and much more, including two hoards of classic buried treasure: Spanish pieces of eight. But Port Royal did not easily give up its treasures: working on a painfully slim budget, Marx and his rag-tag crew had to cope with murky, polluted waters; inhospitable sharks, eels and crabs; razor-sharp coral and ancient walls on the verge of collapse; and the intractable opposition of some financial and political interests. Blending real-life adventure, colourful history and the thrill of discovery, Marx has written a fascinating account of one of the most important marine archaeological expeditions ever undertaken.
In a month of high quality publications, this engrossing book stands out as something very special indeed. Part history, part memoir and part adventure story, this is the tale of the author’s excavations of Port Royal, a legendary Jamaican port which was dubbed , ‘the most wicked city in the world’. Most of the book consists of Marx’s heroic investigations of the site. Undaunted by sharks, pollution, non-existent visibility and ancient walls on the verge of collapse, he and his ragtag crew discovered thousands of artifacts, including two hoards of Spanish pieces of eight. Marx even believes that this area may hide the wrecks of two of Christopher Columbus’ ships.
This is one of the most compelling accounts of an archaeological expedition I have ever read. Marx’s ability to bring history to life is extraordinary, and his account of the dangerous excavations was pure Indiana Jones stuff.
Port Royal The Sunken City is a superb read, and one that I would recommend to anybody, whether or not they are interested in marine archaeology.
DIVE Magazine Feb 2004
About the Author:
The author, Robert Marx, is a colourful and controversial character in the archaeological business and not without his critics. He is well known for his treasure-hunting expeditions around the world. Some say he sails close to the wind in his navigation between archaeology and outright treasure hunting. Such a controversial approach inevitably involves dramatic ‘adventures’ which, while not necessarily gaining universal approval, assure the reader of a fascinating and exciting ride.