Saturday, October 28, 2006

 

Neptune yields tiny treasure

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The Daily News
By Patricia Smith
October 28, 2006


ATLANTIC BEACH — Underwater archaeologists found something to crow about this week on the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck site.

Divers discovered a 1-inch-high brass rooster, the decorative top to something — but they don’t know what.

“On the base, you can tell where the metal broke off,” said Linda Carnes-McNaughton, a historical archaeologist with Fort Bragg who volunteered this week with the QAR Project.

Such finials adorned a wide variety of items in the 18th century, so it could have broken off of a weapon or even a personal box, Carnes-McNaughton said.

Divers found the cockerel in the same excavation unit of the shipwreck as an apothecary weight, so it may somehow be associated with measuring scales, possibly an ornament on the box where weights were kept, Carnes-McNaugton said.

The fixture features little eyes, a beak and a rooster tail.

“It’s made of cast brass,” Carnes-McNaughton said.

It would have been made in a mold, but it is well-crafted, she said. There are no marks identifying a maker.

“We’re not sure where the little cockerel came from,” Carnes-McNaughton said.

And that makes drawing any symbolic conclusions difficult since roosters had different meanings in different parts of the world in the 18th century, she said.

“In some cultures it could be associated with Christianity,” Carnes-McNaughtons said. In Germany, for instance, there were many cockerels on the tops of churches.

QAR archaeologists will need to research decorative arts of the period to find out more, said Dave Moore, nautical archaeologist with the N.C. Maritime Museum.

The QAR staff is also researching the marks on the apothecary weight to see what they mean, Moore said.

The weight is marked with a Roman numeral “XVII” on top, an Arabic numeral “8” on the left, a “1/2” on the bottom and a visible “R” on the right, which Moore said can be seen as “Rx” under a microscope.

The weight was found in the same general area of the shipwreck where other surgical instruments were found in earlier dives, the archaeologists said.

Archaeologists believe the shipwreck is that of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the pirate Blackbeard’s flagship, which ran aground in Beaufort Inlet in June 1718. Just weeks earlier Blackbeard had attacked Charleston, S.C., capturing gold and other valuables and demanding medical supplies.

Among other items recovered from the shipwreck this week were unidentifiable concretions, lead shot, gold dust and ceramic pieces.

One of the ceramic shards was not lead-glazed like the other pieces archaeologists have been finding for years, Carnes-McNaughton said.

It would have been part of an oil jar or olive jar, and though it is the first of its kind found at this site, it would certainly have not have been rare to find them aboard a pirate ship, Carnes-McNaughton said.

“These are the ones we call them cardboard boxes of the 18th century they’re so generic,” she said.


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