Archaeologia Maris Baltici et Septentrionalis

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13th-century grain shipments

The Kuggmaren wreck in situ. The samples were taken from between the floor timbers.

On 11. November samples of grain and caulking material from the Kuggmaren wreck (built around 1215) were analysed at the University of Kiel’s archaeobotany laboratory. This wreck in particular is of great interest, being the oldest in Swedish waters built in a shipbuilding-tradition believed to have originated in the North Sea, which is generically (but perhaps inaccurately) associated with the cog-type.

The samples were already taken during the initial investigation in 1998 and were kindly made available by Prof. Dr. Johan Rönnby (Södertörns University). The wreck was found in sheltered conditions just 1.5 m below the present sea level, so in total about 4.7 m below the sea-level of the early 13th century, when the post-glacial rebound is taken into account. It has sunk in a sheltered lagoon in the Jungfruskär, which is located between the places of Ornö and Nämndö both mentioned in a 13th-century Danish Itinarary – colloquially known as King Valdemar’s Itinary – linking the once Danish province of Blekinge with the Danish part of Estonia, conquered in 1219. While the location of the shipwreck in relation to the itinerary’s route description could be merely accidental, its “foreign” construction, its date and  provenance strengthen  the hypothesis that this vessel might have operated as part of the major maritime transport network that connected the Danish overseas provinces.

The following preliminary results are based on an analysis conducted by Prof. Dr. Wiebke Kirleis, Dr. Helmut Kroll and other university affiliates. The examination of the grain sample showed that it consisted largely of prepurified barley with some minor traces of oat. While there is historical evidence that bulk transport of grain as commodity was common to Norway in the late 13th century, it seems improbable that the same applied to  Sweden. Therefore it seems more likely that it was used as fodder en route. Barley and oats are a common staple for horses, which raises the vital question whether this could be identified as a horse transport or whether supplies were shipped in support of an army abroad? Interestingly, rye was found in another similarly-built wreck from the same period some 200 km further south (Lemdahl 1995).

The Kuggmaren wreck is being evaluated as case study within the framework of my thesis, where it will be discussed in more detail.

 

Further reading

Adams & Rönnby 2002: J. Adams and J. Rönnby, “Kuggmaren 1: the first cog find in the Stockholm archipelago, Sweden”. In: The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 31.2, (2002), 172-181.

Lehmdahl et al 1995: G. Lemdahl, M. Aronsson und L. Hedenäs, Insekter från ett medeltida handelsfartyg. In: Entomologisk Tidskrift 116.4, 1995, 169-174.

Zwick, D., 2014: Auf den Spuren des ältesten See-Itinerars der Ostsee: eine archäologische Zeitreise. In: Gestrandet, Versunken, Versenkt – Faszination Unterwasserarchäologie. Neumünster 2014, 192-215.

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