Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Archaeology fest brings history to life


Delaware online
By James Merriweater
May 29, 2005

Event features Kalmar Nyckel, newly dredged shipwreck artifacts
LEWES -- According to historical archaeologist Alice Guerrant, 12,000 years of Delaware's past were spread out on four folding tables set up on the lawn of Zwaanendael Museum.

But 12,000-year-old spearheads and 3,000-year-old axes looked only like rocks to 6-year-old Nick Carlino of Milford, who summed up the seventh annual Lewes Archaeology Festival in three words.

"This is boring," he said, prompting his father, John, to try to explain why he should be just a little interested in the state's oldest artifacts.

Adult archaeology buffs were decidedly more gung-ho, particularly since this year's festival offered a rare opportunity for many of them to talk about their own troves of newly found artifacts. Many have turned up pieces of 18th century pottery, miniature soldiers and bottles on Lewes beach, where Army Corps of Engineers dredging equipment spewed them along with 165,000 cubic yards of sand just after last Labor Day. The dredge hit what officials believe is an 18th century shipwreck.

"I get up every morning and go down to the beach," said Peter Ross, 65, of Newark, a former state budget director who owns a beach house in Lewes and whose findings include a piece of a bottle with the original cork still snugly in place.
"It's good exercise, and it's kind of fun to find things that are 250 years old."

The best guess is that the 71-foot ship, which apparently was hit by a sand-pumping dredge, went down between 1750 and 1770 while seeking shelter from a storm. But its origins remain unknown.

"That's still the big question," said Craig Lukezic, an archaeologist with the Delaware State Historic Preservation Office.

Still looking to captivate young Nick Carlino, festival organizers directed him to a plastic pool where members of the Delaware Marine Archaeological Association were putting a newly acquired remote-operated vehicle through its first paces. Typically, such vehicles are used to explore shipwrecks deemed to be too deep or too dangerous for exploration by divers.

As it happened, the vehicle was dead in the water on Nick's arrival.

"It's been working well, but the battery ran out before we thought it would," said Paul Cooper, an association member who works for Zwaandenael Museum. The problem later was traced to a water leak that shorted out a fuse.

The festival, which marks an end to Delaware Archaeology Month, also featured tours of the Kalmar Nyckel, a replica of the tall ship from Sweden that delivered the first European settlers to the Delaware Valley -- namely, the site of present day Wilmington -- in 1638. The ship is based in Wilmington and travels the mid-Atlantic coast for shows and festivals.

Looking to get a jump on a busy day in the resort area, Stacey Webster of Dover and her three sons -- Nicholas, 8; Alexander, 5, and Michael, 2 -- were the first customers to board the ship.

Once they were aboard, they were treated to information from well-versed volunteers.

Don Brown of New Castle, noted that, despite the threat of icebergs, 17th century seamen traveled mostly during the winter months because warm weather was better for building new ships and repairing old ones. And Donna Floyd of Lewes, manning the helm station, pointed out that steering wheels were not available until the late 1600s. Earlier ships -- and this replica, built in 1997 -- employed a vertical stick called a whipstaff to manipulate the rudders.


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