Stephanie Koenig – Institute of Nautical Archaeology Institute of Nautical Archaeology Thu, 07 Dec 2017 19:17:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Crowdfunding Nautical Archaeology Wed, 04 Oct 2017 13:15:41 +0000 The Ship Biscuit & Salted Beef Project is currently crowdsourcing research funds to continue the nutritional and microbiological testing of their shipboard food items. Over the summer, the majority of food items were made according to 17th-century historical documents and data from archaeological remains and placed on Elissa, the 1877 tallship docked in Galveston. Upon initial testing, a surprising number of microbes, both in diversity and quantity, were present on the food, despite the great amount of salt and other bio-preservatives used in their making, causing the team to exhaust their laboratory supplies much sooner than expected. Microbiological analysis is time-dependent, so having the proper amount of supplies shipped in and ready is critical to have sound data. If you’re interested in donating, please check the crowdfunding website here.

About This Project
Were sailors actually ship-shape–or were they truly a sickly bunch? Find out with us! We are replicating shipboard food using exact ingredients and methods from the 17th century. Then, a transatlantic voyage is simulated by storing the food in casks and keeping them on Elissa, the 19th century tallship. The nutritional and microbiological data from this project will offer a glimpse into the unique food situation, health, and daily life of past sailors.

What is the context of this research?
“[Unsalted food] is rotten and stinking [so] it is necessary to lose your senses of taste and smell and sight just to [consume] it and not sense it,” wrote Eugenio de Salazar, a Spanish explorer to the New World, in 1573. Before canning technologies or refrigeration were invented, food was fermented, salted, or dried to prevent spoilage. Unfortunately, these methods of preservation also decrease the nutritional value of food on lengthy voyages. Previous attempts to gauge the nutritional value of shipboard diets were based on historical documentation or existing USDA nutrition charts that only reflect nutritional values from modern foods, not historical ones.

What is the significance of this project?
This project hopes to understand the effects of shipboard diet on the health of sailors by determining the nutritional and microbial intake of seamen on 17th-century English ships by replicating the food items as close to possible as they were in the past.

This project will give us great insight into humankind’s shared maritime history and answer some longstanding questions in archaeology and history. We hope to understand how this unique subset of society ate and how this impacted their health, as prior to airplanes, all immigrants who made the transatlantic voyage to the United States came here via ship. Yet, there is little knowledge on the precise conditions of the food 17th-century sailors consumed.

What are the goals of the project?
In this project, shipboard food will be replicated using the exact ingredients and methods of preparation from the 17th century, including non-GMO ingredients, the exact species of plant or animal, and the same butchery methods and cuts of meat. Archaeological and historical data will be used to replicate the salted pork and beef, ship biscuit, wine and beer, and other provisions aboard Warwick, an English race-built galleon that sank in 1619. We will also simulate a trans-Atlantic voyage by storing the food in casks and keeping these in a ship’s hull for three months. Representative samples of food will be sent for nutritional and microbial analysis, including species of microbes, their quantities, and toxins, to understand changes that the food undergoes.…



First Look at a Rare Northern Steamboat Wed, 27 Sep 2017 22:03:51 +0000
Heritage steamboat Nenana at Pioneer Park, Fairbanks, Alaska  (J. Pollack 2017)


Research Associate John Pollack has just returned from Alaska where with the assistance of City of Fairbanks staff a hull assessment was conducted of the heritage ship Nenana. The 210’ Nenana was one of the last and largest American-built stern-wheel steamboats to work on the lower Yukon and Tanana Rivers, where it served as a packet carrying up to 52 passengers and towing 6 barges at a time. The standard two-week route was a 1600 mile round trip to Marshall, with the occasional trip above the Arctic Circle to Fort Yukon. Nenana is the only known example of a northern wooden-hulled  sternwheeler designed by naval architect W.C. Wickum in 1932 and built from blueprints. The goal was to create a powerful, minimum draft tow boat suitable for the shallow, lower sections of the Yukon River drainage. The ship has a barge-like hull with standard chine construction, a rectangular cross-section amidships and a broad bow. The blocky hull is visibly less sophisticated than the streamlined Klondike 2 which carried freight cargo on the main deck, and towed only a single barge through the more constricted and meandering sections of the upper Yukon drainage. Another significant difference from Klondike 2, was the use of very few water-tight bulkheads on Nenana.


A snag deflector arc in front of one of the four main rudders (J. Pollack 2017)


Several rare examples of hull architecture and machinery were documented, including novel snag deflector arcs designed to keep debris away from the four main rudders, an uncommon slaved tiller assembly placed just inches above the main deck, and the largest number of large transverse beams yet found in a Yukon River steamer. Nenana also contained the second known example of an internal hog post and chain system installed below the main deck, and used to correct hull weakness (e.g. hogging) in the original design. Additionally, the team discovered a truly unique and baffling framing method at the stern rake (or apron), where an upper set of floors (complete with limber holes) was installed above the centerline and side keelsons, which in turn rests upon the lower floors to which the hull planking is spiked. These elevated floors are not shown in the blueprints, suggesting they were an “on-the-fly” alternation made by the shipwrights when the prefabricated hull was assembled in Nenana, Alaska.


Largest shipwreck at the Golden site


In late September, three additional small stern-wheel steamboat sites were confirmed on the Upper Columbia River between Fairmont and Golden BC, by Danish-Canadian archaeologist Xenius Nielsen and Research Associate John Pollack. The Fairmont site lies a kilometer north of the source of the Columbia River at a point where the river is less than 15 m wide. The Golden sites are 100 km further north (downriver), and plans are being made to document the largest of the three during low water in the spring of 2018. Note the fresh grizzly bear tracks in the mud.


Fairmont site


Grizzly bear footprints adjacent to paddlewheel fitting at a second site in Golden, BC


Eight New Shipwrecks Discovered in Greece’s Fourni Archipelago Mon, 31 Jul 2017 16:21:22 +0000  
Left: An archaeologist systematically photographs a wreck site to create a 3D site plan; Right: High resolution 3D model of a Roman period shipwreck

The 2017 season of the Fourni Underwater Survey in Greece fully documented 14 sites located during previous seasons. While the focus of this season was the thorough documentation of sites located during the 2015-2016 seasons, the survey of shipwrecks in the small archipelago led to the discovery of eight new sites, for a total of 53 shipwrecks located over three seasons.

The fieldwork was conducted during three weeks in June by the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities/Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports in cooperation with RPM Nautical Foundation. The research vessel Hercules conducted seafloor mapping using multibeam sonar and inspected deepwater targets with an ROV, while diver teams conducted photogrammetry, drawings, and recovered key artifacts for further study and scientific analysis. The ROV and divers occasionally worked in tandem to record and recover artifacts from sites. Amphoras from each wreck were raised for conservation, archiving, and 3D modeling, and a few were prepared for DNA and residue analysis, as well as testing a new method of direct dating of ancient ceramics.

The eight new sites span the Classical Period through the 19th century A.D. The majority date to the Late Roman period, but the most significant wrecks include a Classical shipwreck carrying amphoras from Chios and a Roman shipwreck transporting Dressel 28 amphoras from Iberia. The project also found a wide range of anchors dating from the Archaic Period through the Byzantine Period. The finds further illuminate maritime connectivity between the entirety of the Mediterranean and reveal trade and technological changes throughout history.

Read more about the Fourni Underwater Survey.

Left: RPM Nautical Foundation’s scientific research vessel RV Hercules at port in Fourni; Right: Photographing large Pontic amphoras that date to the Roman Period

Left: The chief conservator carefully prepares a Classical Period Chian amphora for the conservation tank; Right: Conservators clean marine growth from amphoras

Photos by Vasilis Mentogianis; 3D model by Kotaro Yamafune

The Ships that Changed History Mon, 15 May 2017 15:59:46 +0000 This symposium brought together four world renowned scholars to give multiple public lectures on four of the most significant and celebrated shipwreck finds of the last half century. Click here to watch videos of the lectures from the Ships that Changed History symposium, held at Texas A&M on April 5-6.

2017 Claude Duthuit Grant Recipient Tue, 07 Feb 2017 15:20:35 +0000  

Nicholas Budsberg: Shipwreck Excavation at Highbourne Cay, Bahamas
The 2017 Claude Duthuit Archaeology grant was awarded to Nicholas Budsberg to excavate what may be the earliest known European ship in the Americas, dated to the beginning of the Age of Exploration (1492-1520). In 1986 INA partially excavated the wreck, which is likely either an Iberian caravel or nao, but modern methods will ensure an improved study of the hull. Read more about the history of INA work at this site on the Highbourne Cay Iberian Shipwreck project page.

INA in the SAS Bulletin Tue, 07 Feb 2017 00:57:06 +0000 INA’s newly constructed Archaeological Research Vessel, Virazon II, has been announced in the Society for Archaeological Sciences Bulletin. Following sea trials this past summer, Virazon II was relocated to her permanent berth in Yalıkavak Marina outside of Bodrum. The vessel will embark on its first Turkish shipwreck survey this fall.

Click here to to read the full article in the SAS Bulletin (Vol. 39 No. 3/4, page 7).

ARVVirazon II Completes Maiden Voyage Mon, 05 Dec 2016 15:06:10 +0000 On November 6, 2016 ARV Virazon II, Orkan, Kaptan Zafer and crew arrived safely at her home port, the Yalikavak Marina, just west of Bodrum!  Learn more about Virazon II and the rest of INA’s fleet here.

Virazon II and crew after they arrived in the Yalikavak Marina.

Virazon II and crew after they arrived in the Yalikavak Marina.


Public Lecture: Tracing Cultural Contact Along The Silk Road An Example From Ancient Glass Mon, 14 Nov 2016 20:43:39 +0000 Public lecture by Dr. Julian Henderson, Nottingham University.  Lecture on November 15, 2016 at 5:30 on the TAMU campus at College Station, Anthropology building, room 130.  All are welcome!

INA Takes Possession of ARV Virazon II Mon, 31 Oct 2016 14:48:33 +0000 This week marked an important milestone as papers were signed transferring ownership of ARV (Archaeological Research Vessel) Virazon II to INA’s Turkish company.  Captain Zafer Gül, INA archaeologist Orkan Köyağasıoğlu, and several other crew members are scheduled to leave the shipyard outside of Istanbul next week as Virazon II voyages to her new permanent berth in Palmarina outside of Bodrum.  A huge and heartfelt THANK YOU to all those talented people who worked together to make this dream a reality, but above all to Claude Duthuit, Barbara Duthuit, George Bass, John De Lapa, Orkan Köyağasıoğlu, and all of our friends at Navtek Naval Technologies, especially Orkun Özek and Ferhat Acuner.  Your hard work has blessed INA with a spectacular new tool for shipwreck archaeology.

You can follow the progress of the ship by going to the link below. Please scroll down to the chart, Latest Position, where the black arrow represents the ship and its course. VIRAZON II Marine Traffic position.


Turtle-Eaters Mon, 24 Oct 2016 20:54:58 +0000 Chelonioidea have found themselves listed among the gastronomic pleasures since William Dampier exclaimed that their meat was like that of the sweetest pullet. Initially introduced into the mariner’s diet, sea turtle quickly found itself on the epicure’s table.  Sailors coming to the West Indies hunted green turtle to supplement a diet of salted meat and ship biscuit for something fresh and apparently delectable.

Sea turtle was caught in two ways, the first was to spear them from a small boat:

Central America: spearing green turtle on the Musquito Coast

Central America: spearing green turtle on the Musquito Coast, 1874.  Photo:New York Public Library.

Alternatively, sailors could wait for the turtles to come ashore to lay eggs, and then flip them over on their backs:


Catching a Sea Turtle, Turning it Over for Later Retrieval.

Leathery turtle; Haw's-bill turtle; catching turtles on the coast of Cuba. 1856, Photo: New York Public Library.

Leathery turtle; Haw’s-bill turtle; catching turtles on the coast of Cuba. 1856, Photo: New York Public Library.


Thomas Gage, an English Jesuit travelling in disguise, traveling from Spain to West Indies reports:

“We fed the first week almost upon nothing but tortoise; which seemed likewise to us, that had never before seen it, one of the sea monsters…Our Spaniards made with them a lovely broth with all sorts of spices.  The meat seemed rather flesh than sea fish, which being corned with salt, and hung up two or three days in the air, tasted like veal.”

De Leat also mentions provisioning with salted turtle.  However as of yet, while turtle was deemed tasty, it was by no means a luxury food in the maritime community.  John Fryer, in the East Indies from 1672-80 relates: Turtle meat “restores vigor to the body, giving it a grace and lustre as elegant as viper wine does consumptive persons and worn out prostitutes.”  This source of fresh meat was a huge draw to 17th century mariners; Dutch, English & Spanish ships took on turtle as provisions regularly, keeping live turtles on deck by giving them a pint of water a day.

Turtle Humeri Fragments From Port Royal.

Top: Turtle Humeri From Port Royal, red lines signify cuts; Bottom Right: Common butchery patterns found on cattle long bones from 17th century sites.

Green Sea Turtle long bones recovered from the excavation of the catastrophic Port Royal 17th century site demonstrate contemporary butchery practices.  After examining the humeri found at the site, it appears that butchers were dis-articulating the marine animal in ways very similar to other livestock.