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Crew hoists 438-year-old iron anchor

A 10-foot wrought iron anchor from the wreckage of a Spanish galleon was hoisted from the murky waters of Pensacola Bay after 438 years.

The wreck was first discovered in 1992, but the anchor had been left to mark the spot for archaeologists working on excavation. The anchor and a cooking cauldron were pulled out Wednesday.The ship, at least 100 feet long, was part of a fleet led by Tristan de Luna that brought more than 1,000 Spanish colonists and 500 soldiers from Mexico, accompanied by about 100 Aztec warriors.

They established the first known European colony at Pensacola in what is now the United States. In September 1559, about a month after the colonists arrived, a hurricane sank seven of the ships, including the one found at Emanuel Point in Pensacola Bay.

Luna's colony, wracked by dissension and disappointed over the failure to find gold or other riches, was abandoned two years later. The Spanish did not resettle Pensacola until more than a century later, in 1698.

The only older shipwrecks found in U.S. waters are those of three Spanish vessels that went down in a storm in 1554 off Padre Island, Texas.

The anchor is one of hundreds of items taken from the wreck, including Aztec and European pottery, a carving of a galleon, stone cannonballs and a Spanish coin minted in the 1470s.

One of the more recent discoveries was an intact, hand-painted ceramic plate from Mexico found beneath the anchor. About 40 percent of the wreck has been uncovered.

The anchor, which was taken to the University of West Florida for preservation, is broken at the top, where a wooden cross-member would have been attached.

"That's part of the mystery of this shipwreck," said state underwater archaeologist Roger Smith, who led the team that found the wreck in 1992.

"When did that anchor break? Did it have anything to do with the wrecking of this ship?" he asked. "We're trying to figure that out."