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Archaeologists start excavating 18th-century merchant ship in Noordoostpolder

Exceptionally large and complete ship wreck further examined by the University of Groningen
06 June 2018

Mayor of the municipality of Noordoostpolder Aucke van der Werff and maritime archaeologist Yftinus van Popta began excavating an early-18th-century cargo ship on Wednesday afternoon by uncovering a Bartmann jug. The excavations are being carried out on agricultural land close to Rutten by the University of Groningen’s (UG) Institute of Archaeology and were commissioned by the municipality of Noordoostpolder.

The archaeologists are excavating a big armed merchant ship an estimated 30 to 35 metres in length that is thought to have sunk in the Zuiderzee between 1715 and 1720. The wreck is being excavated because of soil compaction and agriculture in the polder.

The excavations, with left the starboard side of the hull and right the port side, which has toppled over.
The excavations, with left the starboard side of the hull and right the port side, which has toppled over.

In the reclaimed land of Flevoland there are hundreds of wrecks of ships that sailed on the Zuiderzee. Mayor Aucke van der Werff: ‘You never get blasé about finding ships in our polder. It’s always exciting what the soil will reveal. Although the polder itself is only 75 years old, the history of the area goes back much further. The country’s past is told here.’

Results of the excavation

Maritime archaeologist Yftinus van Popta from the UG is leading the dig: ‘As well as the hull of the ship, we found most of the port side, with the bottom hold and deck above it (including the gun ports) still present. We have therefore found an exceptionally complete and well-preserved combination of cargo, inventory, rigging and arms.’

There is a strong suspicion that the ship was from England and had connections with Mediterranean countries. The UG will further catalogue and research the wreck and excavated objects in the coming months. The material will be conserved and kept wherever possible. Work at the site will continue until the end of August 2018.

Yftinus van Popta, Mayor Aucke van der Werff en mister Dijkstra, owner of the land.
Yftinus van Popta, Mayor Aucke van der Werff en mister Dijkstra, owner of the land.

Zuiderzee Act 100 years old

Van der Werff: ‘This year it is 100 years ago that the Zuiderzee Act entered into force and the decision was made to drain the Noordoostpolder too. They probably didn’t realize that this decision to drain the area would teach us so much about the nautical history of our country. What a coincidence that it was this year that the UG decided to dig up the wreck.’

Public viewing day

The site is in the middle of an agricultural area that is not accessible to the public. This is to ensure that the archaeological and agricultural work are not disturbed. However, the UG will be holding a viewing day at the site for local residents and anyone else who is interested. More details will follow from the municipality of Noordoostpolder and the UG. There will also be a small exhibition of the results of the excavations in Emmeloord town hall over the summer.

Last modified:13 March 2019 07.00 a.m.
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