Friday, October 14, 2005


Lewes shipwreck artifacts continue to yield data


Cape Gazette
By Henry J. Evans Jr.
October 12, 2005

Archaeologists know a lot more now than they did last December when beachcombers picked up hundreds of pieces of pottery, earthenware containers and other objects on Lewes Beach near the Roosevelt Inlet.

And now with money in-hand for the project – and perhaps more in the pipeline if a federal grant comes through – more artifacts and information could surface by year’s end.

Dan Griffith, director of the Lewes Maritime Archaeological Project overseeing the research, said a state appropriation of $200,000 to conduct further underwater archaeological recovery of artifacts could have divers back in the water at the site over the next couple of months.

He said a grant application for up to $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation is pending approval.

Griffith said if all or some portion of that grant comes to the project it would be used for additional artifact recovers as well as for research and laboratory staff and artifact conservation.

Griffith said underwater archaeology is expensive to conduct. In April, divers for the Army Corps doing survey and recovery work spent 11 days at the site at a cost of $100,000, he said.

Griffith said researchers are still working to confirm the origin of the 1750s-era ship – most likely English – that wrecked a few thousand feet off Lewes Beach.

The shipwreck was discovered last winter after a dredge working on a beach replenishment project struck a debris field.

Griffith said goods carried aboard the merchant vessel came from five countries – England, Germany, Holland, South Africa and China. None of the artifacts appear to be French.

“That says something about the British relations with the French during that period,” said Griffith.

He said researchers have identified fragments of 258 individual jugs along with numerous pieces of stoneware and mineral water bottles.

He said research continues into two millstones that were recovered from the site as a University of Delaware geology graduate student tries to determine where the raw stone came from. One of the millstones weighs an estimated 500 pounds.

Griffith said a conservator who specializes in metallic objects has found that the military miniatures recovered, commonly called “tin soldiers,” were actually handcrafted from another metal.

“They were made by pewter smiths, probably German, in their spare time when they weren’t working on commissioned pieces like plates and other utensils,” said Griffith.

He said public interest in the artifacts has remained high with more than 90 citizens having given their beachcombed collections to the state for research.

Griffith said an exhibit set up for last weekend’s Coast Day with the assistance of the University of Delaware’s College of Marine Science had 400 visitors.

He said it’s too early to know whether a special exhibit for Lewes’ 375th Anniversary Celebration would be set up by the start of festivities in April 2006.


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