Prerow Fieldschool 2009

Our annual summer fieldschool took place in Prerow on the German Baltic coast, the “German Hawaii” as it was termed by one of the participants. Three weeks in sunshine and 30 degrees Celsius, diving on the so called “telephone receiver wreck” Not a very glamorous name, but a beautiful (as far as wrecks go) wreck site, located only 300m from the beach in 3.5m of water. The telephone receiver wreck turned out to be a ca. 20m long wooden vessel, which lay very well preserved upside down with the bow pointing towards the beach. The exposed part of the wreck was fully recorded during the fieldschool. A number of test trenches were dug to establish the height of the sand cover, but the end of the wreck could not be reached, even in an almost 2m deep trench.

By chance -we also got the chance to work on another wreck, the “4am wreck” (that’s when we excavated it on the beach), which had been found on the beach by tourists. Although only a small part of a probably quite well preserved wreck, a detailed study revealed a lot of interesting information. The “4am wreck” was a clinker vessel which had been rebuilt with carvel outer planking. Working with two teams simultaneously, one “telephone receiver team” at sea and a “4am team” on land, we could record the wreck in detail and dismantle it part by part.
We are now going to spent the autumn semester analysing our results and writing excavation reports as well as two scientific articles, one on each site. Regular project updates will be posted here!

Princes Channel Wreck/ Gresham Ship

The Gresham ship, the wreck of an English merchantman built in 1574, was lifted from the Thames in a rescue excavation by Wessex Archaeology, a UK archaeological contractor, in 2004.
A webpage with further information on the excavation is available here. The shipwreck consists of five hull sections including the bow and the portside of the ship from a level above the keel to the orlop deck. It represents a unique resource as it is the only ‘well preserved’ example of a small English merchantman of the Elizabethan period. The Gresham wreck, which has been deposited in Horsea Lake, Portsmouth, is currently subject of a five year post-excavation programme which is co-ordinated by the University College of London. In addition to a full publication of the find, the study programme also includes the organisation of two international conferences. As a project partner, the Maritime Archaeology Programme of the University of Southern Denmark is responsible for the recording, analysis and publication of the hull remains.

The rudder of St George

In December 1811, the English men of war St George and Defence stranded on the west coast of Denmark with enormous loss of life. Both wrecks have been subject of archaeological survey and excavation since the 1970’s. An exhibition in the Strandingsmuseum in Thorsminde displays artefcats from those surveys and tells the story of the disaster. One item on display is the rudder of St George which had been lost in the Baltic before the vessel foundered in the North Sea. In March 2009, students of the Maritime Archaeology Programme set out to record the rudder with a total station. The aim of this project was on the one hand to teach the use of a total station for recording objects and on the other hand to produce a 3D model as well as a scientific report on the rudder for use by the Strandingsmuseum. The outcome of the project will also be published in an archaeological journal.

HUMA project Gotland

The HUMA project on Gotland focuses on the maritime archaeological heritage of the island in the Baltic. Fieldwork in 2008 concentrated on the remains of the Danish-Lübeck fleet which foundered in a storm on the west coast of Gotland in 1566.

Students and staff of the Maritime Archaeology Programme took part in a three week survey at Brusviken, just north of Visby. Besides conducting an area distribution survey with metal detectors, the preserved stern section of a vessel was recorded.


Underwater Archaeological finds in the Danish Wadden Sea have not until now had very much attention. Experience along the Schleswig – Holstein coast and in the westernmost part of the Wadden Sea, however, shows that the dynamic environment has great potential for maritime archaeological research. The discovery of a medieval wreck just South of the island of Fanø near Esbjerg in April 2006 demonstrates this aptly.
In late April 2006, the trawler E4 Ho Bugt was fishing shrimp in Knudedyb, a channel south of Fanø. Its nets got caught in some wreckage which the crew chose to bring in and report to the Fisheries Museum in Esbjerg.
The pieces of wreckage turned out to be parts of a keelson, a frame and some planks. On closer inspection they appeared to be of medieval date. This was confirmed through endrochronological dating carried out by Aoife Daly. The timber for the keelson was cut in the summer of 1264 AD. The date was obtained using Northern German regional data, which may indicate the origin of the ship. The discovery in Knudedyb was later followed up by geophysical as well as diver surveys.

Gredstedbro ship

During a normalization project on the small river Kongeå in 1945, workers came across a compact mass of hard wood just outside the small town of Gredstedbro. Some parts were broken off and discarded, but three pieces of the wood were handed over to the Museum in Ribe, as they were thought to be part of a bridge. Only 20 years later they were recognized as belonging to a ship. The three pieces were identified as being parts of a frame, a keel and a stem- or sternpost.

The remains were dated to the 7th century, a period from which only few ship finds exist in Northern Europe. As such this is an important find in describing and understanding the development of ship technology during the Early Middle Ages around the North Sea, and even though only three timber fragments of the ship is actually known, it has repeatedly been referred to in the literature.

Although parts of the wreck were broken off in 1945, the majority of the timbers are still thought to be left in the river bank. Unfortunately the exact location not known today, and since 1965 several attempts to relocate the site have been unsuccessful. As the site is a mere 15 minute drive from our Campus in Esbjerg, and as it is a perfect training site for our students, a series of surveys have been planned in an effort to refind the Gredstedbro ship


2 responses

26 04 2009
13 08 2009

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