Diving for the Armada

Thursday 17 January 2002

A University of St Andrews shipwreck excavation of what could be one of the missing Armada galleons is to be broadcast on Channel 4’s Time Team this weekend (Sunday 20 January 2002).

The excavation, which took place during July 2001, involved the Archaeological Diving Unit recovering material on a site on the north-west coast of Scotland at Kinlochbervie.

Research into the site aims to establish the vessel’s intentions, whether it was related to trade or warfare and, ultimately, to identify the wreck, thought to be one of only six Armada ships which remain unaccounted for.

If the site is related to the intended Spanish invasion of England in 1588, it will be an important addition to those known in British and Irish waters. If not from the Spanish Armada, then the shipboard material and cargo will give an insight into a little known aspect of maritime trade. This will be of great importance to the understanding of the economic climate of the time and the nature and extent of the trade network of the 16th Century.

In the first part of the project, survey control points were placed around the site and their positions fixed. Once the basic survey had been completed, vulnerable pottery on the seabed was labelled, surveyed, bagged ready for lifting and brought to the surface.

Director of the ADU Martin Dean said, “One advantage in working with the Time Team is that they can bring in appropriate experts at short notice to help analyse the finds. Pottery specialist Duncan Smith from Southampton recognised pieces of Iberian courseware and high grade Italian majolica. This was confirmed by majolica specialist Celia Cernow who identified much of it as a type of decorative tableware made in the later part of the 16th century in the workshops of the Patanazzi families in Urbino, Italy. Such dinner services were made to order and were prized possessions. Careful packing and storage probably helped protect the delicate majolica from the wrecking process and explains why some of the pieces found are still intact with decorative details still well- preserved despite ending up in a dynamic environment. ”

The more spectacular pieces discovered include an almost complete ewer decorated with female satyrs and a “salt” that would have been a centre piece of the dinner table. Other material on the site included complete olive jars and fragments of many others, galley bricks, iron guns and shot, anchors and a sounding lead. The raised material is now being conserved by the National Museums of Scotland.

The ADU worked with the finder of the site, Roy Hemming, and his colleagues from the RAF Lossiemouth Sub-Aqua Club to survey, record and recover material on the seabed at threat from storm damage. They were also joined by Jo Stevens, the “Our World Underwater” scholarship winner for 2001 who was gaining work experience in underwater science. In addition, the Scottish NAS training officer Phil Robertson, supported by Barry Kay and Jo Cook, provided additional archaeological training for team members.

The site has been designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 because of its possible historical associations. The ADU, under contract to the Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport, is responsible for examining wrecks protected under the Act on behalf of the Government.

The Channel 4 Time Team programme – Diving for the Armada, Kinlochbervie – will be broadcast at 6.30pm on 20 January 2002.


NOTE TO EDITORS – Emailable pics of artefacts discovered can be obtained from Claire Grainger, contact details below.

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact Claire Grainger on 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or email [email protected] Ref: kinlochbervie/standrews/chg/17jan20 02

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