Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 4-1 (October 2012)Thijs Maarleveld; Alice Overmeer: Aanloop Molengat – Maritime archaeology and intermediate trade during the Thirty Years’ War1
2 The Aanloop Molengat ship

2.2 Armament and inventory

Eleven cast-iron cannon have been found across the wreck. Two of them were lying directly aft of the south end of the wrought-iron. Four cannon were scattered along the starboard side. Five others were lying in the south of the site (see fig. 2). The distribution of the cannon implies that they were used as ship’s armament, rather than being part of a cargo of new cannon, or damaged gun barrels, as in the Brouwerhavense Gat 2 wreck (Vos 2004). They probably tumbled down from their original position on a higher deck during the wreck formation processes.

The two cannon directly aft of the wrought-iron were recovered in 1988. They had been moved to facilitate excavation and were lifted in order to check for markings. After weighing (both 1280 kg), they were drawn at a 1:5 scale and studied by Nico Brinck, an expert in armament (fig. 12). The cannon are 9-pounders, large cannon used for large ships. They are semi-culverines, with tapered trunnions and a bore of 11 cm. Such cannon are believed to have been cast in England and to be typical of the 1630s. In view of the dimensions, there must have been more 9-pounders or even heavier armament aboard.


Figure 12 Two identical cannon were recovered from the Aanloop Molengat wrecksite (AM-2/ and AM-3/ Each is approximately 2.46 m long (drawing: N. Brinck).

Many cast-iron cannon balls of various sizes were lying approximately amidships, concreted in two rows of cubic shapes. A bar shot and a grenade, with the powder charge still intact, seem to be exceptions in the assemblage of these ‘normal’ cannon balls which belonged to the cargo rather than to the armament (van der Linden forthcoming).

A total of 1558 lead balls were recovered among the small finds in the southeastern end of the excavation. They range in diameter from 8 to 18 mm, but two distinct groups of 10 and 15-16 mm are discernible, the smaller ones for pistols, the larger ones for muskets (van der Linden forthcoming). All musket and pistol balls were measured using XRF. The results show that no homogeneous groups can be discerned. The composition is very different from that of the lead ingots in the cargo. This implies that the musket shot was made by smelting scrap lead and re-used shot, probably over and over again. It is unlikely to have been a commodity for trade; rather, we are dealing with ammunition supplies on board this ship (van der Linden forthcoming). As the vast majority (86% of the 847 for which the findspot is documented) came from sections C and H, it can be inferred that they had been stored in the stern along the ship’s centreline, rather than in the hold. This is consistent with the layout of most early modern ships, where ammunition and hand weapons were stored in central lockable compartments aft. Witsen (1671, 58-59, 159, 198) describes this for contemporary ships, for ships of 30 years previously, and for ships from France.

Strikingly few objects belonging to the ship’s inventory have been recovered. No earthenware or stoneware can be associated with the wreck. All such finds are clearly from a different period and are dealt with below as later contamination. The few items that are likely to belong to the ship’s inventory originate from a thin spread all over the excavation area.[3] A few fragmentary wrought-iron fittings may be part of the rigging. The only possible item of navigation equipment is a small sounding lead. The conical lead has a length of 9.5 cm and a maximum width of 4.5 cm. Its base is not hollowed and we cannot rule out that it is a large fishing weight that should be considered a later intrusion. Similarly, two pieces of rolled lead sheet, 24-25 cm long and 1.6 cm in diameter, may be interpreted either as weights, or as belonging to the original ship’s equipment.

Gear for cooking, eating and drinking is highly underrepresented. One pewter spoon was found in section F. It has a circular bowl and a crowned Tudor rose mark with initials CH near the hexagonal handle. The Tudor rose appeared in the Northern Low Countries from about 1540 onwards (Dubbe 1965, 69). Cast-iron fragments seem to indicate at least three three-legged cooking pots.

Two complete pewter plates and two small fragments of a plate were found in sections F, H and M. The plates have a diameter of 22 and 22.5 cm and a rim of 4 cm. No tin marks are visible.

The pestle of a mortar was found in section B (fig. 13). The pestle is made of copper or bronze, is very heavy, and has a length of 25 cm. It has pounding surfaces at both ends, separated by a ridge. One end is somewhat longer than the other (12.5 cm/11.5 cm), so the pestle can be used by both large and small hands. Mortar and pestle are used by apothecaries and pharmacists to grind and pound hard spices and substances for drug preparations. The accompanying mortar has not been found in the wreck.

The function of two almost identical objects is unclear. The objects of 5.5 and 8.5 cm in length are made of copper and have a screw thread at one end (fig. 14).


Figure 13 Copper or bronze pestle for a mortar, 25 cm long (photo: T. Penders (RCE)).


Figure 14 Two unidentified copper objects with screw thread ends. Length 5.5 and 8.5 cm respectively (photo: T.Penders (RCE)).