Construction workers found the remains of a 700-year-old ship under the streets of Estonia’s capital Tallinn.
Buried approximately 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep, the ship’s remains are made of oak and are just over 78 feet (24 m) long with a beam, the widest point of the ship, measuring about 29 feet. feet (9 m) in diameter.
“The original length of the ship was longer, since the shank [the vertical timber at the bow] is missing and the ship’s bow is damaged,” Priit Lätti, a researcher at the Estonian Maritime Museum, said in an email to Live Science. “The ship was likely built in the early 14th century,” according to a dendrochronological analysis. , an examination of tree rings found in the ship’s wooden remains, he said.The ship is, at first glance, very similar to other ships found in Europe from the same period, he added.
Unearthed near Tallinn’s Old Harbor three weeks ago, the ship was a significant find for archaeologist Mihkel Tammet, who was observing a construction project. According to Lätti, when heritage protection areas are being excavated, an archaeologist must be present. The Estonian Maritime Museum was notified of the ship’s discovery to help provide more information and record the find.
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The ship was not buried very deep and, as Lätti told Live Science, it was filled with sand. It is likely that the sea gradually filled the boat over the centuries as different layers of sand were visible, he said.
Since the discovery of the ship, it has been speculated that it is a hanseatic gear, a cargo ship used for trade by the Hanseatic League. The league, a group of trading guilds from across Europe, ruled the seas between the 13th and 15th centuries. However, Lätti said it is too early in the excavation process to be able to accurately determine the ship’s origins.
“Most likely it’s a cargo ship,” he said. “As we still don’t know the origin of the woods (dendrochronological analyzes are still preliminary, so I don’t want to cite exact dates or first ideas about the origin of the wood) it is difficult to say the origin of the vessel. ”
The researchers are also working to determine whether other artifacts found buried with the ship could be useful in determining the boat’s age. “Additional analyzes were made; also the artifacts found on board must be analyzed to give more exact answers,” added Lätti. “At the moment, only the forward area of the ship is excavated; the cargo hold was relatively empty. The excavations now move to the aft area of the ship, which may contain more finds.”
Other artifacts discovered with the ship so far include some wooden barrels, pottery, animal bones, some leather objects and fabrics. The number of finds is expected to increase in the coming days as the back of the ship is excavated.
The discovery of the ship in such a well-preserved condition is significant as it will help historians and archaeologists learn more about shipbuilding and trade in the Middle Ages, as well as what life was like aboard these ships.
“For Tallinn as an ancient merchant city, finding something like this is an archaeological jackpot,” said Lätti, an expert in studying harbors and shipwrecks. “The development of Tallinn is closely related to maritime trade, and while we know a lot about the merchants and goods, we still know relatively little about the ships they used.”
Ships similar to this one have been discovered in the past. For example, the Bremen gear was found in Germany in 1962, and a medieval freighter was discovered in Tallinn in 2015 and is now housed in the Estonian Maritime Museum.
The future of this ship, once excavated, is still under discussion. But the objective is to remove it from the construction site where it was found and house it in a controlled environment and preserve it. Lätti described this as a “big task”.
“The methods of transporting, preserving and conserving the ship are still being discussed,” he said, “because it is a very complex operation, and we are dealing with a very valuable archaeological object.”
Originally published on Live Science.