Saturday, November 18, 2006

 

Archaeologists announce find at supposed QAR site

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Sun Journal
By Patricia Smith
November 18, 2006

Chuck Beckley/Freedom ENC
Wendy Welsh, QAR assistant
conservator, displays a bell
Friday that was discovered on
the latest fall dive to the
Queen Ann’s Revenge site.

BEAUFORT — Ten years ago a private research firm recovered a brass bell from a shipwreck site in Beaufort Inlet believed to be the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

The bell inscription, IHS Maria, gave few clues to the ship’s identity.

State archaeologists announced Friday they found another bell on the shipwreck site that they are hoping will be the “smoking blunderbuss” that positively links the ship and Blackbeard.

“I have all suspicion that the one that’s just recently been discovered is indeed the ship’s bell, but who knows,” said David Moore, nautical archaeologist with the N.C. Maritime Museum.

The new bell is about 8 1/2 inches tall, roughly half the height of the one found in 1996, said Sarah Watkins-Kenney, QAR Project conservator.

Rings of the bell are visible through the concretion and the concretion it is in has been x-rayed, said QAR Assistant Conservator Wendy Welsh.

“We did not see any identifying marks, but that does not mean its not there,” Welsh said.

It will take some cleaning before archaeologists can determine for sure, if the bell features any markings such as a ship’s name or a date.

Archaeologists will be looking for “La Concorde,” which was the French slave ship Blackbeard captured in November 1717 and renamed Queen Anne’s Revenge, or the name of some other ship the pirate took, Moore said.

They will also be looking for any type of hanging mechanism still attached to the top to show if the bell had deteriorated in place or if it was more likely a prize taken from another ship, said QAR Project Director Mark Wilde-Ramsing.

Normally, ships of this period had two bells, a large one on the bow and a second one in the stern, the area of the shipwreck where this latest bell was found, Wilde-Ramsing said.

Made of brass or bronze, conservators will be able to clean the bell much more quickly than the iron cannons that can take years to ready for display, Welsh said.

She expects they will be able to discern some of the bell’s features by early 2007.

Other items state archaeologists announced that they found during a fall diving expedition included a small gun, the likeness of Queen Anne on the side of a coin weight, and thousands of little lead shot, evidence that the wreckage is indeed a pirate ship.

“This was a heavily armed, very provisioned vessel,” Moore said.

The question that was asked 10 years ago — is this really the Queen Anne’s Revenge — is yet to be answered, though circumstantial evidence that it is continues to mount, said State Archaeologist Steve Claggett.

Even if it should turn out that it is not, it is still an important piece of North Carolina’s colonial history, Claggett said.

“In this shipwreck we have a time capsule,” he said.


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