Reidi tee work yields puzzle as modern tin can found in ancient shipwreck

Shipwreck found during Reidi tee construction in Tallinn.
Shipwreck found during Reidi tee construction in Tallinn. Source: ERR

Work on the new Reidi tee in central Tallinn yielded another surprising archaeological find recently, this one providing something of a riddle, ERR's Novaator science portal reports.

Workers found a buried wooden ship which archaeologists later determined dated from the end of the medieval period/beginning of the early modern era. Since musket shot was found in situ, the ship could not have been from any earlier than the dawn of the firearms era. Firearms were in common use in Europe by the fifteenth century.

However, tinned food was not in use at that time, which raises the question why a can with an expiry date from 1972 was found within the ship's structure.

According to archaeologist Rivo Bernotas, the explanation is that the shipwreck was most likely moved from its original resting place, sometime during the 20th century. A modern metal cable found attached to the ship's bow gives credence to that theory too.

While the vessel is being treated with the utmost care nowadays, archaeological sites in the past, in particular during the Soviet era, did not always experience the same, which could also explain how the shipwreck got to be moved and reburied. As to why this happened, it seems most likely that the wreck caused an obstruction to shipping lanes or possibly construction work in the area where it originally lay, and was moved and buried within the embankment along which Reidi tee, which will link the harbor area with Kadriorg, east of the city center, runs.

Since the vessel was in a location close to already-completed road building, it cannot be excavated entirely, Bernotas told ERR News. However, with 3D modeling and laser scanning already carried out, as well as dendro samples taken from the shipwreck's wooden beams, Bernotas hopes to shed more light on the ship's age and origins. Since the removal of the wreck likely took place within living memory, it is hoped the Port of Tallinn or other authorities or individuals might be able to provide information as well.

Shore protection work being carried out in the Reidi tee work will also be extended to help protect the wreck, it is reported.

The vessel is not the first to be found during Reidi tee work. An earlier example found in the initial stages of building was excavated and is now a museum exhibit.

Remains of a Crimean War-era artillery battery, and various World War Two-era ammunition dumps, are other finds which have emerged during the course of the Reidi tee construction since last year.

The original Novaator piece and ETV clip (in Estonian) are here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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