The United Nations' cultural body is on the trail of Christopher Columbus' flagship—and it says the wreck that an expedition identified as the Santa Maria earlier this year is a different, much younger ship. As predicted by authorities in Haiti, UNESCO experts say there is "indisputable proof" that the wreck found off the country's north coast is from a much later period than 1492, reports the BBC. UNESCO says the wreck is further from shore than accounts of Columbus' first voyage, and bronze or copper fasteners found at the site are evidence of shipbuilding techniques that date the ship to the late 17th or 18th century at the earliest.
UNESCO says it believes the wreck may lie "under coastal sediment" in what is now marshland and has called for further investigation of the area. Marine archaeologist Barry Clifford, who first investigated the wreck 11 years ago, says Columbus-era lombard cannons spotted in the area are crucial pieces of evidence that now appear to have been looted from the site, the Independent reports. "The lombards are the smoking guns and, in my view, the most important pieces of evidence in the search for the Santa Maria," he says. (Columbus wrote about the 1492 sinking of the Santa Maria in his journal, but one historian believes that the explorer lied about the ship's fate as part of a spy plot.)