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The Age of exploration and Europe’s imperial colonization of far-off lands was launched by a revolution in ship design that made long-distance voyages practical. In just a few years, ships were transformed from small coastal-bound water vehicles into massive ocean-going vessels. Once trans-oceanic journeys became feasible, everything changed. Powerful navies arose and fought for supremacy at sea, while the new ships enabled empire-building European powers to invade and colonize indigenous lands and exploit their peoples.

How did this transformative change in ship design come about? Scholars, historians, and marine archaeologists have always faced a problem: few wrecks dating back to this crucial period survive, so rough drawings and incomplete records have been their only evidence.

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