Galle lighthouse, ramparts and cockerel, by Muthu.
Last modified:
6 Jan 2002

The stone anchor site

Topview of the large stone anchor with its wooden arms. Photo by Patrick Baker, 1999. How the arms would have fitted, demonstrated by Pat Baker & Nerina de Silva.
Large stone anchor GHP30; max length 3.17m, max width  55cm, min width 26cm.
Broken anchor GHP31; max length 74cm, max width 37cm, min width 30cm.
Single-hole anchor GHP76; max length 65cm, max width 49cm, max thickness 15cm.

Several stone anchors have been found clustered together near the Black Fort in the area of Kamba Bandina Gala, a traditional mooring site for the lighter vessels which ferried cargo between large ships and the jetties. Anchors are not only found in association with wrecks: ships lose anchors frequently, because they jam or because they are not properly secured - see the eyewitness account of the Hercules disaster, in which the anchor was thrown overboard without first tying it to the ship. Old anchors may also be used as fixed moorings.

Replica of stone anchor undergoing  sea trials in Oman.One large anchor of Arab-Indian pattern was recovered in 1997, and two broken anchors of similar type have been found. Several dozen of these anchors have been found in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, with the largest concentrations near Qalhat in Oman. The stone of the large anchor has been analysed, and is also believed to be from Oman. The anchor is estimated to weigh almost a ton, so must have belonged to a ship of some size. It bears witness to the Arabian vessels which pioneered the sea route to China and are believed to have dominated regional trade until the arrival of the Europeans.

Under the large anchor were two pieces of dense hardwood, in a position suggesting that these were the arms of the anchor. This is the first time that wood has been found in association with one of these anchors. Analysis has shown that the timber is from the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, perhaps just preceding the arrival of the Portuguese. The anchor itself may of course be older, as timber arms would have required frequent replacement.

Iron anchor. Rukshan and Daya examining the Mediterranean anchor.One anchor was found of Mediterranean pattern, also known as Byzantine-Arab style. These anchors were used in ancient times, as far back as the third millennium BC, but were also in use until recently in the Persian Gulf.

One large iron anchor (3.2m long, with the end of the shank apparently missing, and 3.9m across the arms) was found near the stone anchors. It appears to be of the Old Plan Long Shank Pattern, similar to examples from the British warship HMS Sirius wrecked on Norfolk Island in 1790. (The Royal Navy was constantly experimenting with anchor designs, and their evolution may be seen in the collection in front of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.)

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