Monday, April 11, 2005


Is vessel really Blackbeard ship?


The Daily News
By Patricia Smith
April 10, 2005

GREENVILLE - A picture on the presentation screen showed one of the cannons state archaeologists retrieved from a shipwreck they think might be the pirate Blackbeard's flagship.

Those attending a symposium on the archaeological project could read the numbers "1730" written on the side of the barrel.

"Anybody that says that's a date is really showing their ignorance of 18th century cannon foundry," said Nathan Henry, archaeological conservator with the state's Underwater Archaeology Branch.

Founders of that day used professional engravers to mark the cannons they made, Henry said.

"These numbers are chiseled," he said, posing instead the theory that the figures refer to the weight of the gun.

His comments referred to the authors of an article in the April edition of the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology that cites the numbers on the cannon as possibly the most important of several reasons to question whether the shipwreck truly is Queen Anne's Revenge.

"If this is a date, it definitely eliminates the identification of the site as Blackbeard's 1718 shipwreck," states the article, co-written by Michigan state archaeologist Wayne Lusardi (a former conservator for the Queen Anne's Revenge Project) and East Carolina University Archaeologists Bradley Rodgers and Nathan Richards.

The article further states that the notion that the figures represent the weight is unlikely.

"English weights are denoted in hundredweights-quarters-pounds, written thus with dashes between the numbers," the article states.

Additionally, the article indicates that numerals denoting weight are generally placed across the breadth of the gun, not the length.

The recent questions about the legitimacy of the Queen Anne's Revenge was a large topic of discussion at the Blackbeard symposium at ECU on Friday.

Henry, for example, said the numbers do add up to near the current weight of the cannon, which underwent conservation and cleaning measures after sitting for 200 years under the sea.

"Because guns were sold by the pound, this is a good indication that this is a price tag," Henry said.

The article claims those associated with the Queen Anne's Revenge Project may have slanted evidence associated with the wreckage to fit a pre-conceived notion that it was Blackbeard's boat found in Beaufort Inlet, while ignoring other possibilities.

The article puts forth a theory that the vessel appears more like a mid-18th century merchant ship than a pirate's boat.

Speakers at the symposium, however, presented research that dated the artifacts from the site to the early 18th century.

"We feel very comfortable that we're actually in the right timeframe," said QAR Project Director Mark Wilde-Ramsing.

Several archaeologists from across the country, who participated in a symposium panel discussion, said nothing in the article had convinced them that the shipwreck was not the Queen Anne's Revenge.

"It has the likelihood of being the flagship of the pirate Blackbeard and at the very least it's the earliest shipwreck found in North Carolina coastal waters," said Roger Smith, Florida's chief state archaeologist.

State archaeologists never claimed conclusive evidence to identify the site. But Charles Ewen of ECU's Anthropology Department said he did agree with the article's contention that by naming the project and conservation lab "Queen Anne's Revenge" and repeatedly referring to the shipwreck as the flagship, the state may have contributed to public misunderstanding.

All the panel members said archaeologists might never find the artifact that proves beyond doubt that the vessel once belonged to Blackbeard.

"What we're going to have to be swayed by is preponderance of evidence," said Donny Hamilton, program head for the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University.


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