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stepping stones of maritime history


During dredging works at a marina in the Pärnu River a fragment of a wreck was discovered at a depth of 1-1,5 metres. The wreck was investigated by the archaeologist Tõnu Sepp who received assistance from the newly founded department of underwater archaeology at the Estonian Maritime Museum under the lead of Vello Mäss and volunteers from the Viikar and Süvala dive clubs.

At that time structures for underwater archaeological operations and research were still nascent in Estonia (prompted by the discovery and salvage of the Massilinn wreck), so any underwater fieldwork occured in cooperation with volunteer divers.

Although only a wreck fragment of ca. 7.9 x 3.7 metres was discovered, the constructional details already revealed much about the shipbuilding tradition. Similarities to other medieval shipwrecks from central and northern Europe of the "Bremen type" (or the so-called bottom-based tradition) were observed that have been commonly associated with the historical "cog" type and the Hanseatic League. In fact, Pärnu was one of the most important Hanse cities in the Baltic region.

The date has been roughly established on the basis of a 14C analysis.


The following characteristics typical for the "Bremen type" have been observed:

  • the oak side planks are joined in the lapstrake fashion, fastenened by double-bent iron nails
  • the seams were caulked with moss and covered by wooden laths, secured by iron clamps (sintels)


The wreck fragment was raised and placed into a conservation tank. Since 2012 it is exhibited at the Pärnu Museum. Other parts of the hull may still be in situ under the jetty construction.


  • Mäss, V. (1992).
    A medieval ship from the Pärnu river.
    Eesti NSV Teaduste Akadeemia Toimetised. Humanitaar- ja sotsiaalteadused, pp. 293-298.
  • Roio, M. (2006).
    The Investigation of Underwater Heritage in Estonia.
    In: V. Lang & M. Laneman (eds.), Archaeological Research in Estonia 1865 – 2005 (= Estonian Archaeology 1), pp. 301-310.
  • SHIPWHER - memory of the sea.
    Pärnu cog.

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