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13th Century Shipwreck Sheds New Light On Medieval Trade

An underwater archeological investigation of the wreck of a 13th century ship in Finnish waters is providing new insights into Baltic maritime trade during the Middle Ages. Divers this summer have been bringing up unusually well-preserved ceramic and bronze artifacts.

Meriarkeologi tutkii löytynyttä saviastiaa.
Image: YLE

An exceptionally large number of artifacts have been discovered in the wreck of a ship that went down in the Finnish archipelago sometime in the late 1200s or early 1300s.

The Engelskär wreck, as it's called, was first discovered in 1996 by marine biologists working in the area. This summer, the site is the most important field operation for archeologists from the National Board of Antiquities.

Over the past four weeks, divers have found an unusually large number of artifacts including many well-preserved ceramics, such as medieval beer mugs, rare in being nearly complete 800 year old specimens.

"For us researchers, these are unique and valuable. Archeological digs on land usually only turn up fragments. At sea, some of these are preserved well and whole," says team member Riikka Tevali. Earlier finds also include a bronze church bell.

Scientists say that their work will shed new light on the role of medieval maritime trade in the Baltic.

"We have some wrong pre-conceptions about maritime history. In the Middle Ages, the sea was the superhighway along which people and a lot of goods travelled," points out Research Director Stefan Wessman.

Luckily for scientists the wreck was untouched even though it lies under only 10 meters of water. It is expected to keep archeologists busy for many more years.

Sources: YLE

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