During construction work in Estonia, a medieval cargo ship was unexpectedly discovered
By: April Carson
Under the streets of Tallinn's Estonian capital, construction workers have discovered the remnants of a 700-year-old ship.
Archaeologists believe that the ship was used to transport goods across the Baltic Sea. It is thought to be from the 14th century, making it one of the oldest ships ever found in Estonia.
The ship's remains are approximately 5 feet (1.5 m) beneath the sea floor and are made of oak, with a beam measuring about 29 feet (9 m) across at the vessel's widest point, slightly over 78 feet (24 m) long.
The ship's cargo of ceramic jars was most likely intended to hold wine. The discovery is an exciting one for Estonian archaeologists, who research the country's history and culture.
"The first length of the ship was longer, owing to the absence of a stempost and the ship's damaged bow," Priit Lätti, an expert at the Estonian Maritime Museum, explained in an email. According to a dendrochronological study, which examines the tree rings found in the ship's wooden remains, "The vessel was most likely built at the start of the 14th century." According to him, on first look, the ship is very similar to other vessels from roughly the same period discovered throughout Europe.
The ship, which was discovered off Tallinn's Old Port three weeks ago, was a significant find for archaeologist Mihkel Tammet, who had been monitoring a construction project. According to Lätti, when areas that are under heritage protection are dug up, an archaeologist must be on site. To assist provide further information and documentation of the find, the Estonian Maritime Museum was notified.
The ship is one of only a handful of medieval ships that have been discovered in Northern Europe. It is not yet known what kind of cargo the vessel was carrying when it sank, but it is possible that the ship may have carried goods between Western and Eastern Europe.
There has been much debate since the ship's discovery as to whether it is a Hanseatic cog, a cargo ship used by the Hanseatic League for trade. The league, which was made up of trade guilds from across Europe, dominated the seas during the 13th and 14th centuries. Lätti added that while it is too soon to determine where the vessel came from now that excavation has begun, there is evidence that supports the theory that it may indeed have belonged to merchants.
He continued, "It's a good possibility it's a cargo ship. Because we haven't yet determined the timbers' origin (dendrochronological analyses are still in their early phases, so I don't want to give precise dates or initial hypotheses about the timber's origin), determining the boat's origin is difficult."
Researchers are also focused on determining if future relics discovered buried with the ship can be of use in estimating the boat's age. "Additional tests have been carried out; furthermore, the objects discovered aboard must be analyzed to obtain more precise answers," Lätti added. "The excavations now shift to the rear of the ship, which may contain additional findings.
A half-rotting wooden boat has been discovered in the wreck, as well as several other items including a couple of oak barrels, ceramics, animal bones, leather goods, and textiles. The number of discoveries is anticipated to rise in the coming days as the aft portion of the vessel is investigated.
The finding of the ship in such excellent condition is significant, since it will assist historians and archaeologists in learning more about shipbuilding and trade during the Middle Ages as well as what life was like on board these ships.
"This is like finding a needle in a haystack," said Lätti, who specializes in studying ports and shipwrecks. "Finding something like this is like hitting the archaeological lottery for Tallinn as an ancient merchant city." The growth of Tallinn is connected to maritime trade, and while we know quite a bit about the merchants and goods, we still know very little about the vessels they sailed in.
Other objects have been found in the same area. For example, a medieval merchant ship was discovered in Tallinn in 2015 and is now on display at the Estonian Maritime Museum, and a Bremen cog was unearthed in Germany in 1962.
The future of the ship after it has been dug up is uncertain. However, the objective is to move it from the site where it was discovered and house it in a controlled environment so that it may be preserved. "It's a huge job," Lätti stated about preserving this vessel. "It will likely take us many years to complete."
"The procedures for moving, keeping, and preserving the ship are still disputed," he went on. "Because it is a very complicated procedure that deals with a priceless archaeological find, we are still discussing various methods of transporting, storing, and conserving it."
The discovery of this ship has also been a boon for maritime archaeologists, as it has provided them with new information about the construction methods used during the Middle Ages. "We know quite a lot about these cog ships," said Lätti. "But every new find helps us understand a bit more."
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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