Although it is more than 50 years ago that a perfectly preserved shipwreck was uncovered in the fluvial sediments of the Weser River – the ‘Bremen Cog’ (ca. 1380) – as it became known – its adherent type and tradition are still controversially debated today. It is regarded as a perfect specimen of its type, and there lies the very problem, as the wreck was elevated to a paradigm due to its striking resemblance to the Stralsund seal of 1329, which depiction has been referred to as “cog” in a much later source. This analogy has been instrumental in deducing a whole set of characteristics, which could not be inferred by the historical sources alone. In doing so, it is erroneously implied that the Bremen find is the best “specimen” of the cog-type and thus gained momentum as a self-referencing – or indeed – self-fullfilling prophecy. In my paper it is argued, that there is little evidence to support the notion that an archaeologically verifiable shipbuilding-tradition can be associated to a historical type-concept. It is very questionable that the “cog” represented a type in the constructional sense. The type of medieval source where the most references to cogs and other ship-types can be found are toll rolls like the Pfundzoll, and what mattered primarily to the custom’s officer who made the classification was an estimate of the loadbearing capacity, according to which the toll could be fixed. He would have neither crept into the hold to ascertain whether the bottom-planking was carvel or clinker, nor would he have measured the curvature of the stem in order to determine whether the ship was a cog or not. The conflict between historical types and archaeological traditions are exemplified in the discussion of the cog, or how it should be referred to in archaeological terms.
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