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Da Vinci cannon found

Archaeologists are hailing the discovery of the forerunner to the machine gun designed by legendary Italian artist and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci as a sensation.

At the time, Da Vinci was famous for his cannon designs that were hugely in demand among the waring factions between the North Italian city-states. He was the first to design a breech-loading cannon and found that by using several cannons in rotation you could be firing one, loading another and cooling the third.

The cannon discovered in Croatia and now confirmed as being from the 15th century when Da Vinci was alive is believed to be one of his attempts at increasing the rate of firing with multiple cannons combined into one. It was apparently one of his less successful designs as the cannon found had exploded at the rear and been discarded - where it was discovered by a group of schoolchildren.

The original Da Vinci designs are regarded as the forerunner of the modern machine gun and until now the only Da Vinci cannons on display have been copies.

A spokesman for officials at the museum in southern town of Benkovac said: "The cannon was found in a fortress of Klicevica that was a border fortress at the time when the Turks started to invade this area. We have only recently confirmed that age of our cannon and that it was one of the connons designed by Leonardo Da Vinci. We have been liasing with Italian experts and only this week has it been confirmed.

"As far as we know, this is the only original cannon designed by Da Vinci left in the world. The triple barrel canon in the Da Vinci museum in Milan, Italy is for example only a replica."

Archaeologists said the bronze triple barrel cannon - which will now go on display at a museum in Benkovac - was most probably brought to the Croatian area of Dalmatia from Venice as Venetians ruled the area at that time.

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