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Elizabethan-era shipwreck uncovered at CEMEX quarry


A rare Elizabethan-era shipwreck has been found at a CEMEX quarry near Dungeness in Kent, UK, with the discovery providing answers to previously lost information on seafaring vessels from the 16th and 17th century.

Located 300 metres from the coast, the discovery of the ship remains in the quarry reportedly invited levels of confusion among those involved as to how to proceed with the find.

The team on site at the quarry initially contacted Wessex Archaeology as part of an agreement for reporting archaeological discoveries, who then alerted the Kent County Council (KCC) Heritage Conservation team as the wreck was found on land.

Senior archaeologist at KCC, Casper Johnson, visited the quarry to examine the timbers and said that it was “immediately clear” from the construction methods, size of timbers and lack of iron elements, that the remains were likely to date from the 17th or even 16th century date.

More than 100 timbers from the ship’s hull were recovered, with dendrochronological analysis (tree-ring dating), funded by Historic England, indicating the timbers were made of English oak and dated from 1558 to 1580.

Speaking on the relevance of this find, marine archaeologist at Wessex Archaeology, Andrea Hamel, said that the historical potential of the ship will be valuable in understanding the construction and use of these ships in the past.

“To find a late 16th-century ship preserved in the sediment of a quarry was an unexpected but very welcome find indeed,” Hamel said.

“The ship has the potential to tell us so much about a period where we have little surviving evidence of shipbuilding but yet was such a great period of change in ship construction and seafaring.”

After the recording, which involved dismantling the timbers and digital laser scanning, the timbers were placed back at the bottom of the quarry and covered with light silt to protect them for the future.

Though the ship is still unidentified, it represents an era when English vessels and ports played an important role with the Channel serving as a major route on Europe’s Atlantic seaboard.

Casper Johnson said the shingle quarry at Denge, operated by CEMEX, had existed since the 1940s and although there was no specific planning mechanism for the securing of any archaeological works discovered at the site, CEMEX had been “exemplary” in facilitating the recording and storage of the ship’s timbers.

Cabinet member for environment at KCC, Susan Carey, spoke on the teamwork and hospitality displayed in this discovery by CEMEX.

“CEMEX deserve our thanks for recognising they’d found something worth reporting and it’s been great to see the partnership working on this project which saw KCC’s Heritage Conservation coordinate the project and the input of our Minerals Planning Team,” Carey said.

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