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stepping stones of maritime history

History

In 2015 the discovery of this site was reported by a German minesweeper to the Estonian Maritime Museum (Eesti Meremuuseum). A side-scan sonar survey was carried out by the museum’s research vessel MARE to visualise the wrecksite under the lead of Vello Mäss. Shortly thereafter, several artefacts were retrieved with a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV).

Based on the general dimensions, this wreck was temporarily associated with a bojer-type vessel.

The cargo contained several vessels and utensils, which are believed to be items of a pharmacist or medicus (barber-surgeon).

Description

Only casual observations could be made of the hull itself, indicating that this was a carvel-built vessel. It carried ballast stones and wooden boxes, which contain ceramic artefacts. Individual timbers and details in ship-construction were difficult to assess due to the general decay and deterioration.

The wreck remains itself were not dated, but a German tankard produced in Siegburg could be confidently dated into the 1570’s. The pottery assemblage – partly intact – included also glazed redware tripods and other bowl-shaped ware from the southern Baltic Sea. Of particular interest are the pharmaceutical artefacts, e.g. albarellis, a syringe, ointment jars and glass ware, offering a rare glimpse into late medieval healing practices.

A perplexing find was a homogenous group of globular vessels with five bungholes each, for which the specialists have not found any direct comparative evidence. These are tentatively associated with chemist-bottles to saturate liquids with gases or used for vacuum distillation. Another hypothesis was the use as a weapon, in which these vessels were filled with incendiary substances.

Status

The wrecksite is still in situ and has disintegrated into three parts.

References

  • Mäss, V., Russow, E. (2015).
    A delivery for a pharmacy? Exceptional collection of Early Modern Age finds from the sea bed of the Tallinn Bay.
    Archaeological Fieldwork in Estonia 2015, 211–224.

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