Oldest shipwreck revealed in Dutch North Sea
A salvage team scanning the North Sea for missing containers have stumbled on an early 16th-century shipwreck – the oldest sea-going vessel ever to be found in Dutch waters.
MSC Zoe, one of the world’s biggest container ships, shed 345 containers during a storm at the start of this year. While sonar-scanning for the missing cargo, an unidentified object was spotted a few miles north of Terschelling, an island in the Wadden Sea. An underwater search revealed timber beams and copper plates at the site, prompting an archaeological investigation.
The archaeologists concluded that the timbers came from a smooth-hulled ship that had probably been 30m long, and that the copper plates were its cargo.
4 April 2019
Research revealed that the timbers had been felled in 1536 and that the ship was built in the Netherlands about four years later.
The plates, which dated from the same period, were found to bear the mark of the Fuggers, a German family of bankers and merchants who monopolised copper production during the 16th century.
“This find is of very high cultural and archaeological value,” stated the Netherlands’ National Cultural Heritage Agency, adding that extra investment in maritime archaeology had allowed the investigation to take place promptly, and that it would continue this summer.
Describing the discovery as a “lucky accident”, Education, Culture and Science Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven said: “I am very curious about what information will be revealed – that is also the beauty of archaeology: it stimulates your curiosity and imagination. I think this find is an enrichment of Dutch heritage.”