17th century shipwreck identified

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Working and pleasure boats have plied Maryland waters for centuries, with untold wrecked or abandoned ships hidden in the state’s rivers and bays.

One suspected underwater site that was first mapped in 1994 has been re-examined this summer by Scott Tucker, an archaeologist and doctoral candidate from University of Southampton in the United Kingdom along with the Maryland state museum, Historic St. Mary’s City.

Ten feet beneath the surface, Tucker and a crew of volunteer divers found a heavy concentration of stones in an oval-shaped area that was over 50 feet long. The shape suggested that the site is the remains of a ship, suspected to date back to 1650-1700. 

“Now we know the stacked, rounded cobblestones were used as ballast, since there is an order to them. The larger cobbles tend to be at the top of the ballast, helping to fix the smaller stones in place below,” Tucker reports on his blog. “You can see where they were placed side by side by someone over 300 years ago.

And these stones are unique. They are not typical of Maryland. Instead, we found a possible source on the North Devon coast of England, a geological feature called the Northam Pebble Ridge.” 

The size of the ballast distribution suggests a ship of roughly 100-120 tons, an average sized ship for trans-Atlantic trade during this period.

Click here for the full blog with multiple photos of recovered artifacts from the site.