Pewter: the Scottish tappit hens - NMS Research Repository
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Book chapter

Pewter: the Scottish tappit hens

3 March 2017


This book records the excavation of the wreck of a small Cromwellian warship, believed to be Swan, which was found off Duart Point in 1979. When erosion threatened the site in 1992 maritime archaeologists from St Andrews University were asked to investigate the wreck in advance of consolidation and long-term protective management. A ten-year programme of survey, limited excavation and research followed, during which much of the lower hull and parts of the collapsed upper stern were uncovered and recorded. From this, the dimensions, constructional techniques and general layout of the ship were determined, and realities of the ship’s operational functions and her crew’s life on board were revealed. Eleven chapters, including contributions from many of the experts involved in the project, chart the project’s development, the identification of the wreck and its archaeology, as well as explaining the historical background to the shipwreck. Key finds from the site are carefully analysed, including carvings from the decorated stern, interior panelling, navigational, medical and food-processing equipment, and elements of the rigging and pump systems. There is also a detailed study of the remains of one of the ship’s sailors, who the evidence suggests was born in Yorkshire. These finds reveal important information about, among others, early manufacturing processes, ship provisioning and early metallurgy, while the accounts of their discovery and cataloguing offer valuable insights into conservation techniques. Lavishly illustrated throughout with over 300 images, this volume is the definitive report of the major archaeological project undertaken at Duart Point over a 25-year period. It is fascinating reading for maritime archaeologists and historians, and all those interested in sailing warships at a critical time in their development. Undoubtedly, the most significant elements of the evidence from Auldhame are those for Anglian activity and for Norse contact. Between the mid-seventh and mid-ninth centuries AD a para-monastic community, associated with the Anglian saint Balthere flourished on the headland. Whether Balthere actually founded the community is moot, but he was revered locally throughout the medieval period and it is probably his connection, and possibly his burial there, that ensured the sanctity of the location for the next millennium. The monastic settlement ceased to exist sometime towards the end of the ninth century AD, an event which may have been influenced by Viking activity around the coast. Among the ninth- and tenth-century graves was one of a young man buried with his spear, prick spurs and belt set, all of which associate him with the Norse communities around the Irish Sea. Could the young man be Olaf Guthfrithson, king of Dublin and Northumbria, who died in AD 941 shortly after attacking the East Lothian coast, or just a member of his war retinue?


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