Medieval shipwreck found in Tallinn continues to excite archaeologists

One section of the 14th-century cog found on Lootsi street in Tallinn, being relocated to the Seaplane Harbor Museum, July 5 2022.
One section of the 14th-century cog found on Lootsi street in Tallinn, being relocated to the Seaplane Harbor Museum, July 5 2022. Source: Aron Urb/National Maritime Museum

A medieval shipwreck found at a construction site in central Tallinn in summer continues to yield surprises for archaeologists working on it, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Monday.

The latest discoveries have led to speculation that the ship may have been of an unusual transitional design, somewhere between a single-masted cog, and a hulk, which had two masts.

The remains of the 14th-century cog were found at a construction site at Lootsi tänav, close to Tallinn's Old Town Harbor.

A cog was a single-sailed, square-rigged, clinker-built vessel commonly used for trade in the Baltic at a time when Tallinn, then known as Reval, was an important Hanseatic port.

The vessel in question is thought to have sunk at a location which in the present is on reclaimed land, but which would have been underwater at the time of the calamity.

The wreck is one of the largest of its kind to have been found in Europe.

A circular hole cut into one of the the vessel's ribs may have once held a mast.

If this were the case it would mean that the vessel would have had two masts rather than the standard one – in the case of a cog – which may mean it was of a transitional design between that and the larger hulk variety.

Hulks were also common to the region, the Estonian Maritime Museum's (Meremuuseum) Priit Lätti told AK.

Around 150 finds in astoundingly good condition have been listed from the section of the ship found and cleaned up – around a quarter of its original structure – and these may paint a picture of the vessel's last moments.

The crew apparently discarded shoes, belts and other items when jumping from the stricken vessel and into the sea.

"What is key is that most of these findings are not just small fragments, but are very well preserved, and almost complete," Lätti went on.

Other finds discovered ealier included a navigational aid and the remains of rats, embedded and preserved in tar.

The wreck will be housed in a closed structure for the next five years, to allow archaeologists to continue their work, AK reported.

This structure is being put out to tender, with four private companies having demonstrated interest so far, though permission must be obtained from the City of Tallinn to go ahead with the construction.

Once finished the remains of the vessel will also be exhibited to the public in another to-be-built structure, AK reported.

The wreck was removed in two sections in July and transported to the maritime museum late at night, due to the complex feat of engineering that entailed.

It was found at a depth of around 1.5m during construction work for a planned office building and is dated to the 1360s. The wreck is 24.5m long, 9m in beam and 4m in height.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mai Ots

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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