Santa Maria
Replicas of Christopher Columbus's ships, the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, sail past the Statue of Liberty 26 June 1992 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of his landing in the Americas.Maria R. Bastone/AFP/Getty Images

A shipwreck off of the north coast of Haiti, thought to be Christopher Columbus's flagship the Santa Maria, has been deemed by Unesco to be a ship from a much later period.

In May, marine archaeologist Barry Clifford said he believed he had found the wreck of the Santa Maria, one of three ships Columbus took on his first voyage to the Americas.

Clifford and his team found the wreckage over a decade ago, but it wasn't until after data analysis from dives earlier this year, and further study of the photographs from 2003, that he came to the conclusion the ship was the Santa Maria.

"All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus' famous flagship, the Santa Maria," he told The Independent.

After hearing this, Unesco sent a team of experts to examine the shipwreck, on the request of Haiti's government.

The ship had run aground in the exact area where the Santa Maria was said to have done in December 1492.

However, a report released on Monday states that the researchers believe it is a much later vessel due to the discovery of copper artefacts. The researchers believe that if it were the Santa Maria, it would only have been made from iron and wood.

"There is now indisputable proof that the wreck is that of a ship from a much later period," a representative of the UN announced in a statement.

In the report, the experts also say that they think there is a possibility the Santa Maria may be buried under land due to sedimentation from rivers nearby.

In a response to the new findings, Clifford said in a phone interview with the Associated Press that the team from Unesco had never once consulted him on his finds and had not asked to see any of his surveys or images from the dive site.

"I think it's going to be highly, highly prejudiced," he said.

Members of Clifford's team claimed to have found a 15th century cannon when they were exploring the wreckage in 2003. Unfortunately, the cannon has since disappeared.

Santa Maria

The Santa Maria was the largest of the three ships Columbus took on his first voyage to discover the Americas.

The ship ran aground on 24 December 1492, when Columbus's crew got drunk and fell asleep, leaving just a cabin boy in charge of steering.

The ship was stripped of its timbers, which were used to build a fort called La Navidad (Christmas), as it had sunk on Christmas day.

The anchor of the Santa Maria can be seen in Haiti at the Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien (MUPANAH), where it is on display.