Archaeologia Maris Baltici et Septentrionalis

Home » Thesis case studies » The cog delusion

The cog delusion

This graph highlights the conflicting deduction and definition of the cog-type. The graph schematically demonstrates the problem of superimposing the concept of a cog-type on traditions, as the boundaries between traditions are floating and thus any attempt to establish a standard-type would exclude forms that clearly belonged to the same tradition, or shared at least ancestral links . With the exception of rare cases like the ‚Bremen Cog‘, most shipwrecks tend to be only preserved at the bottom construction and thus there is virtually no overlap with pictorial representations. Thus the cog-type definition rises and falls with the frail analogy between the ship depicted on the Stralsund seal and the ‚Bremen Cog‘. While having some analogous features in common, most features that are currently associated with cogs are actually derived from the 'Bremen Cog' itself and backfeeded into the general cog type-concept, thus artificially elevated to a paradigm (Graph: Daniel Zwick)

This graph highlights the conflicting deduction and definition of the cog-type. The graph schematically demonstrates the problem of superimposing the concept of a cog-type on traditions, as the boundaries between traditions are floating and thus any attempt to establish a standard-type would exclude forms that clearly belonged to the same tradition, or shared at least ancestral links . With the exception of rare cases like the ‚Bremen Cog‘, most shipwrecks tend to be only preserved at the bottom construction and thus there is virtually no overlap with pictorial representations. Thus the cog-type definition rises and falls with the frail analogy between the ship depicted on the Stralsund seal and the ‚Bremen Cog‘. While having some analogous features in common, most features that are currently associated with cogs are actually derived from the ‘Bremen Cog’ itself and backfeeded into the general cog type-concept, thus artificially elevated to a paradigm (Graph: Daniel Zwick)

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.

 

Publication

Zwick, D., 2014: Conceptual Evolution in Ancient Shipbuilding: An Attempt to Reinvigorate a Shunned Theoretical Framework. In: J. Adams & J. Rönnby (eds.), Interpreting Shipwrecks: Maritime Archaeology Approaches (Southampton Monographs in Archaeology New Series 4). Southampton: Highfield Press.

 

Further reading

Crumlin-Pedersen, O. 2000. To be or not to be a cog: the Bremen cog in perspective, The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 29.1: 230-246.

Ellmers, D., 2010, Koggen kontrovers. In: Hansische Geschichtsblätter 28, 2010, 113-140.

Hocker, F. M. 2004. Bottom-based shipbuilding in northwestern Europe. In: F. M. Hocker & C. A. Ward (Eds), The Philosophy of Shipbuilding. Conceptual approaches to the study of wooden ships: 65-93. College Station: Texas A&M University.

Paulsen, R., 2010, Die Koggendiskussion in der Forschung. Methodische Probleme und ideologische Verzerrungen. In: Hansische Geschichtsblätter 128: 19-112.

Weski, T., 1999, The IJsselmeer type: some thoughts on Hanseatic cogs. In: The International Journal for Nautical Archaeology 28: 360-379.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: