As the above video shows, the remains of the ship are now little more than a heap of amphorae, the characteristic pots the Romans used to transport wine. The team hasn’t had a chance to excavate the site yet, so more finds may lie hidden beneath the bottom of the sea.
The archaeologists estimate that the ship was from the first or second century BC and was part of an extensive wine trade on the Adriatic Sea. The ship was about 30 meters long and contained an estimated 300 or more amphorae. The excavation was funded by the RPM Nautical Foundation, which has discovered numerous shipwrecks in recent years.
Shipwrecks can tell us a lot about early technology and trade. Several museums are dedicated to them. In Stockholm, Sweden, the Vasa Museum houses the well-preserved remains of a warship that sank in 1628. Despite its impressive appearance, it was badly designed and sank less than a nautical mile into its maiden voyage. In Portsmouth, England, the Mary Rose Museum has a warship that sank in battle in 1545. The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, houses five Viking ships dating to about 1070.
The Queen Anne’s Revenge, was grounded in 1718 while trying to enter Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina. Blackbeard had just come from blockading Charleston until he received a ransom. Currently the wreck lies in only 20 feet of water, as easily accessible to archaeologists as Captain Kidd’s pirate ship, which will soon become an underwater museum.
The anchor, which is 11 feet long and weighs 2,200 lbs, is only one of thousands of artifacts recovered from the ship in recent years.
While Blackbeard transferred to another of his ships and continued pirating, he didn’t survive for long. He was hunted down and killed in a fierce fight in late 1718, shown here in a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Blackbeard was decapitated and his head hung from the bowsprit.
Blackbeard was one of the kinder pirates. There’s no record that he hurt his captives or his crew. He could be violent when opposed, though, and in reality no pirate fit the heroic adventurer stereotype of Hollywood and Johnny Depp. That’s just a romanticism. One wonders what tales people will spin about the Somali pirates 300 years from now.
For more information about this amazing dig, check out The Queen Anne’s Revenge Shipwreck Project’s website.
An armed merchant vessel that plied the high seas sank in the Swash Channel off the coast of Dorset more than 300 years ago. Underwater archaeology teams have been studying the wreck and have found cannon, pottery, and an intriguing face of a man carved into the rudder. Their work has had to speed up as sediment is eroding away, leaving the old wood exposed to decay and attack by shipworms, which cut holes into the wood.
Researchers have decided the only thing to do is to raise the ship out of the water and conserve the wood for future study. Sadly, some of the ship is so decayed that it will have to be left on the sea bottom. It will be reburied in sediment to prevent further decay.
The salvage operation planned for this summer is going to be a tricky one. A ship hasn’t been raised from UK waters since the Mary Rose was brought to the surface in 1982. This 16th century warship, shown here in a Wikimedia Commons image, is now the subject of its own museum in Portsmouth, England.