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stepping stones of maritime history


During a rescue excavation in Barcelona's medieval port quarter, a wreck fragment dubbed 'Barceloneta I' was discovered in 2008. Although the Barceloneta I fragment is not visually impressive, it is nevertheless a unique and important find, as it originated from a clinker-built hull. With its rivetted together overlapping planks, inlaid caulking (luting) material of moss, and joggled futtocks, the wreck fulfills all criteria of a clinker-vessel normally associated with a northern European origin.

And indeed, a palyontological analysis of the caulking material confirmed that the vessel must have been built outside of the Mediterranean, namely in the Bay of Biscay and the Cantabrian coast. Basque or Cantabrian shipbuilders were known for their clinker-built vessels, as their ships were often referred to with the epithet tinclat (meaning "clinker") in contemporary sources.

Basque and Cantabrian cogs and other ships were also known to have operated in the Mediterranean, often hired or owned by Catalans. This aspect is also well reflected in the wreck fragment, as the hull was later treated with pitch, which included Mediterranean pollen species.


The wreck was C14-dated to ca. 1410. The ship may have been lost in one of the squalls that occured in 1420 and 1426, respectively, in which several ships anchoring in Barcelona's port were lost.

The wreck was broken up no later than 1439, as could be stratigraphically established by the construction of a wharf and a breakwater.


The wreck fragment was stored in a fresh water tank for desalination. The water was gradually replaced with polyethylene glycol (PEG), an articifial wax, which stabilises the cell structure of the waterlogged wood. The conservation was carried out by the Maritime Museum of Barcelona over a period of 4 years and the wreck fragment was recently relocated to the History Museum of Barcelona (MUHBA), where it will be displayed alongside a model of a clinker-built vessel from the 15th century.


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