Friday, November 26, 2010

Two Shipwrecks Uncovered Half a World Apart

A fascinating find in Stockholm. Story from The Local (Sweden's news in English):

Mystery shipwreck found in central Stockholm
Published: 25 Nov 10 16:33 CET

The remains of a ship dating from the 1600s have been discovered outside the Grand Hotel in central Stockholm.

The vessel was built with an almost completely unknown technology, delighting archaeologists. The planks of the ship are not nailed down, but sewn together with rope.

The discovery was made by labourers close to the royal palace and in front of Stockholm's Grand Hotel during renovation works to a quay.

"The discovery of the wreck is extremely interesting given the place where it was made. There was a naval shipyard on this spot until the start of the 17th century," Maritime Museum director Hans-Lennarth Ohlsson said in a statement.

A couple of weeks ago, an excavator found something unusual in his bucket. Marine archaeologist Jim Hansson at the Maritime Museum was called to Strömkajen below the Grand Hotel, where he quickly realised the value of the sensational find.

"We were super-excited. It may sound a little strange when one finds little excavated pieces of parts of a ship, but I have never seen anything like it," he said.

With the exception of another ship found in 1896, all other shipwrecks uncovered in and around the Stockholm harbour have featured planks that were nailed together.

"We really know nothing about this technique other than that it was used in the east," added Hansson.

Hansson guesses that the ship is from east of the Baltics, possibly from Russia. The ship's position, well into the quay, reveals that it is from the 1600s or earlier. The wreck was not necessarily linked to the yard, however, and archaeologists have been unable to say how long before 1700 it might have sunk.

Marine archaeologists will send samples to Denmark's Copenhagen National Museum for analysis to be dated as precisely as possible, with results expected by January 2011. In addition, they will monitor the rest of the excavation.

"It is pretty damn nervewracking. It is rare that an archaeologist gets to take a part in something like this. One gets to leave the kids at home and stand in a pit of mud at Christmas," Hansson joked.

In 1961, the Vasa, a Swedish warship, was salvaged from just outside Stockholm harbour. The ship, which foundered on her maiden voyage in 1628, was largely intact and has since become one of Sweden's most popular tourist attractions.

TT/AFP/The Local

It's fascinating that this technique of tying the timbers together survived into the 1600s!  Wow, I thought that would have fallen out of favor with the invention of pegs and, later, metal nails.

And this story from China, in The People's Daily Online:

Archeologists unearth ancient sunken ship in E China's Shandong
18:56, November 23, 2010

Archeologists inspect a newly excavated sunken ship of ancient China's Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) in Heze of east China's Shandong Province, Nov. 23, 2010. Archeologists in Shandong on Tuesday announced that they have discovered an ancient sunken ship of the Yuan Dynasty at a building site in Heze. The wooden ship, with 21 meters in length, 5 meters in width and 1.8 meters in height, contains 10 cabins. Some 110 precious antiques and porcelains have also been discovered in and around the ship. (Xinhua/Fan Changguo)

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