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Old shipwreck found - wood from 1536

The wood

The wood

Missing link in Dutch (maritime) history revealed 
Researchers have found a Dutch shipwreck from the first half of the 16th  century. This is up until now the oldest shipwreck found in the Dutch part of the North Sea. The wreckage was found during the salvage of containers, that were lost by the MSC Zoe on the night of 1 to 2 January 2019.

Copper plate
Minister Van Engelshoven:

This find can rightfully be called a lucky find. This spectacular discovery was made while salvaging the containers. I am very curious about what information will be revealed. That is also the beauty of archaeology: it stimulates your curiosity and imagination. I think this find is an enrichment of our Dutch heritage.

Copper plates, wooden frames and planks were found during the salvage operation. When this occurred, the official salvor immediately stopped its work and reported this to Rijkswaterstaat, the manager of the seabed, who reported this to the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. With a group of specialists the wood and a cargo of 4700 kg of copper plates was investigated.  The ship turns out be constructed in a flush or carvel build way, which means that the planks are not overlapping (or clincker-built) as was the case with medieval ships. These and other details point to a ship built in the North of the Netherlands and that it is an example of the important transition in shipbuilding that was needed to build bigger and with less wood. The wood was dated with dendrochronology to 1536/37.

The cargo of copper is as interesting as the wreck. The copper bears the stamps of the Fugger family – one of the richest and most influential families in Europe at that time. They were bankers, but also owned copper mines in Slovakia. With that copper they basically pushed out the Hanseatic traders. For the transport they needed ships and hired skippers from Holland for that.

Ship of a transition period
Maritime archaeologist Martijn Manders (Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and head of the International Programme for Maritime Heritage):

It's the way the ship was built that's very interesting because you have to think100 years later the Netherlands was in the middle of its Golden Age - and this ship is from a transition period.

Thanks to additional investments in maritime archaeology and cultural heritage management by the Dutch government in the coming years, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands is better equipped to respond adequately to these kinds of special finds. In the coming months more research will be done and fieldwork to dive on the site as well. Experts are eager to find out more. In conjunction with the Rijksmuseum (and NICAS) more research on the copper – that certainly will reveal more information about the trade and the Fuggers  - will be done.   

Press gathering
On the 3rd of April, during a press gathering presented by Martijn Manders together with the minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, the find was made public at the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands in Amersfoort. Several experts shed light on the unique find: Seger van den Brenk (archaeological surveyor) from Periplus Archeomare talked about the first bathymatric and archaeological rsearch, Alice Overmeer (maritime archaeologist) presented the ideas about the shipbuilding, Arie Pappot (copper expert) from the Rijksmuseum explained the copper analysis and historical context of copper trade in the Netherlands and Thijs Coenen (maritime archaeologist) from the Cultural Heritage Agency talked about the upcoming fieldwork and the future plans for the wreck site. Sjoerd van Daalen did the dendrochronological dating of the wood. Heidi Vink and Johan Opdebeeck, maritime archaeologists from RCE, have been involved in the research of the salvaged wreck parts, as well as colleagues Bertil van Os (senior scientist preservation of archaeological finds in situ) and Frank Bergevoet (supervisor conservation).

W. (Willemien) van de Langemheen
Communications officer | +31 33 - 421 76 71