London, July 1 : Archaeologists have broken the seal of the barrel of a 400 year old cannon that was recovered from an Elizabethan shipwreck off Alderney in the UK.
According to a report in The Times, the barrel of the cannon had been plugged with a tampion of wood and sealed with candle wax by sailors more than 400 years ago.
The cannon is one of a set that comprises the first archaeological evidence of a revolution in weaponry that took place during the reign of Elizabeth I - a revolution upon which an empire would be built.
The archaeologists have spent the past month raising the cannon from the seabed off the Channel Islands and will use it to determine the power that this revolution bestowed upon the English naval forces.
The cannon is one of three raised from a wreck half a mile off the tip of Alderney.
The location of the wreck matched the final position of a ship that, according to the records, was "cast away about Alderney" on October 27, 1592.
The ship had been carrying dispatches from Lord Burghley, the Queen's principal adviser, to Sir John Norreys, her most experienced soldier, who was in Brittany commanding an army against the Catholic League and the forces of Philip II.
Archaeologists gathered around the weapon could smell the gunpowder and hydrogen sulphide as it escaped.
According to Mensun Bound, the excavation director for the Alderney wreck, "When we opened it there was a spontaneous combustion of gun powder. It started to smoke."
A replica is to be cast in iron, transported to a quarry in the Midlands and fired at a replica of the side of an Elizabethan ship.
Ballistics experts will measure its range. The archaeologists will examine its handling and recoil, and the damage that it could inflict.