Such problems come about because commercial boats employ nets that scour the seabed, disturbing the sediments where wrecks settle. Like the Mary Rose, many of the lost ships are potentially in excellent condition because organic matter breaks down slowly when it’s buried in mud and sand.
“Thousands of shipwrecks worldwide lie in the path of fishing trawlers, but governments are failing to find even small change to require the damaging effects of a multibillion-dollar industry to be monitored,” says Dr Kingsley.
The new finds are particularly important because they support the idea that modern humans didn’t evolve in a sequential line, but that we need to think of our distant past in terms of a family tree of closely related species.
The preparatory study for Manet’s painting Le Balcon sold for £28.5m to an overseas buyer last year. The painting, which had previously been in a private collection, was made the subject of a temporary export bar to give a British museum the chance to purchase the work. The huge difference in the price paid is down to tax breaks for works of art going to national collections.
The Heritage Lottery Fund gave £5.9m of the purchase price and a further £850,000 came from an Art Fund grant. More than £1m was contributed by trusts, foundations and private individuals.
The portrait will be lent to public museums and galleries for a nationwide tour in 2013.
Normally, this kind of mapping is a hugely time-consuming process that can take several years to complete. However, the hope is that once the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which is being developed by Aurora Flight Sciences and a team from Vanderbilt University in the USA, is perfected, the job will take just hours.
The UAV, which is small enough to fit in a backpack, will use a combination of cameras and geographic information system (GIS) technologies to gather data to use as the basis for a three-dimensional map of the site.
Mawchu Llacta has been chosen for the test in part because of its altitude, 4,100 metres, is close to the upper limit for current UAV technology. The town was built in the 1570s, when the Spanish moved 1.5 million native Andeans into planned towns.