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

3 The Aanloop Molengat cargo

3.1 Introduction

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The nature of the cargo was a decisive factor in the decision to systematically excavate and research the Aanloop Molengat site. It has remained the focus throughout the project. From the start a range of find categories has been subject to specialist research and interim reports. (HyperlinkIntRep) The present study is a synthesis of these and new studies, undertaken in conjunction with archiving the assemblage in the National Depot for Ship Archaeology and integration of the documentation in the e-depot for Dutch archaeology (EDNA). In all, over 3000 objects have been raised, under 1184 individual find numbers. The assemblage will be discussed category by category, starting with the heavy shipments and approximately following the stowage plan.

3.2 Lead in rough ingots

Lead ingots have been found at the southeastern end of the site, which is the aft end of the ship. The ingots had carefully been stowed in a single layer directly on top of the ceiling planks (fig. 15). Many rested in their stowing position, with wrought-iron staves on top. Others were found to be lying in the sand, but their pattern of stowage is still recognisable. In total, 167 ingots have been recovered in excavation. (HyperLinkIngots) Three others are known to be held by a local diver; in total more than 200 have been observed.


Figure 15 The wegde-shaped and angular ingots were carefully stowed in a single layer in the depth of the hold, directly on top of the ceiling (photo: P. Stassen (RCE)).


Figure 16 Four types of ingots (drawing: Jan Nederlof).

The excavated ingots are wedge-shaped or roughly angular (fig. 16). They are about 24 to 33 cm long and wide and 11 to 23 cm thick (av. 17 cm). They vary between 57 and 156 kg in weight, with a total weight of 16851.5 kg (n=165) (Chart 4). Most ingots fall into the range 90-120 kg, and the average is 102.1 kg. The investigated ingots represent a considerable part of the original shipment. If ingots are packed under the full extent of cemented iron bars that remain in situ, the excavated sample would be more than 30%. This is unlikely, however. Nevertheless, it is highly probable that the layer extends right up to the northwestern-most observation (between datum points 22 and 27). In that case it is unlikely that the sample represents much less than 50%. The total weight of the shipment is estimated to be in the range of 30 to 50 tons.



Chart 4 Weight distribution of the lead ingots.

All ingots have smooth upper faces and rough bottom faces, suggesting they were made in a mould, dug out in the sand (Voormolen 1992, 20). The proportion of the wedge-shaped ones to the angular ones is 148 to 22 (n=170), which means that on average one rectangle occurs for every 6.7 wedges. Although this would mean that the angular ingots are strongly underrepresented in the sample, it seems likely that the lead was cast in an oval-shaped mould, after which the master ingot was cut into six parts (fig. 17) (Voormolen 1992, 21). The sides are smooth and do not display cutting marks.

Some ingots, both wedge-shaped and rectangular, have been incised, causing one corner to protrude (see fig. 16). The ingots with a notch occur in the proportion of 34 to 136 (n=170), which means one notched ingot to four regular ingots, suggesting that only one notch was applied to a master ingot (Chart 5). The notch was probably used to remove the master ingot of about 600 kg from the mould (Voormolen 1992, 22).


Figure 17 Hypothetical forms of master ingot (drawing after: B. Voormolen (RCE)).



Chart 5 Distribution of the four different shapes of the lead ingots.

Invariably, the ingots display a number of small square dents, ending in a point. These are the marks of hooks or lifting thongs, used for handling the ingots (Voormolen 1992, 29). Moreover, the ingots are freely struck with 17 different stamps (fig. 18). Only one stamp (A) is found on every single ingot, mostly more than once, up to a maximum of 43 times. It looks like a monogram of the letters T and C. An almost identical stamp was found on ingots in a Dutch ship built around AD 1531-1533 (Azier 2007, 79). It is uncertain whether it refers to a trading house or to quality. There seems to be no correlation between the weight and the type of stamps on an ingot. After A, the most frequent stamps are B (75 x) and E (49 x). All other stamps occur two to eight times. The wedge-shaped ingots with a notch have the largest variety of stamps, up to six different ones. As stamps occur on all surfaces including the sides, at least some of them were applied after the master ingot was divided into parts. Most marks seem to be merchants’ marks, of which thousands were in circulation in the 17th century. They may refer to a producer, trader, or merchant house (Kits Nieuwenkamp 1955).


Figure 18 Stamp types on lead ingots. In the text the images are indicated with capital letters, A-D in the top row, E-H in the second row, I-L in the third, and M-Q in the last row (drawing: B. Voormolen/A. Overmeer (RCE)).

Mark I is a cartouche with a Maltese cross; mark J is similarly designed but it is unclear what it depicts. Mark P is also a cartouche and displays a crowned eagle. These cartouches have a heraldic touch and may refer to the area and organisation of production. This is further corroborated by stamp E, which is a rectangular cartouche with the capitals ILKUS, a spelling variant of ‘Olkusz’, a town in Lesser Poland.[4] From the end of the 16th to the beginning of the 18th century, Olkusz was by far the most important lead-producing centre in Poland (Molenda 1963, 1972). Isotopic analysis, in which the composition of 14 ingots was compared with 12 samples of galena (the natural mineral form of lead sulphide, the most important lead ore mineral) from the lead-zinc-silver mines of the Olkusz region, supports this identification (Clayton et al. 2002, 303 & 307; table 2). The normal pattern of the Olkusz trade was from Krakau (Kraków) along the Vistula to Danzig (Gdánsk) on the Baltic (Molenda 2001, 88ff.).

The Aanloop Molengat type of ingot is not previously known from literature and does not figure in Willies’ (1982) typology. Similar, but not identical, are two ingots found off Cape Arkona in the Baltic (Förster 1994, 59). The Aanloop Molengat finds enabled Molenda (2001, 22-23) to correlate with a single ingot find from medieval Novgorod and to explain the variety of master ingots and their partitioning into four or six sections (secatio plumbi, in the sources). The average weight of the Aanloop Molengat master ingots of about 600 kg corresponds to ten centner (hundredweight). This correlates well with the information from which time series of production were derived, but 6, 8 or 12 hundredweight casts were apparently also applied. The notches are indeed explained as primarily for tackling and handling the master ingots. Interestingly, Molenda mentions the strategic quality of lead and prohibitions on its export during periods of war (Molenda 2001, 36). Evidently, exceptions drove production as well as trade.

A recent find on the coast of Namibia, the Oranjemund shipwreck cargo, includes a shipment of lead that appears to be very similar to the Aanloop Molengat assemblage. The published photograph seems to display both wedge-shaped and rectangular ingots with and without incisions. Their weight varies between 70 and 156 kg (Chirikure et al. 2010). Although stamps and seals are mentioned, only one unidentified seal is published. The assemblage is thought to predate Aanloop Molengat by a hundred years. A study of the stamps and isotopic composition may clarify whether it comes from the same source. Considering the ingot type, it is probable that the Oranjemund shipment, like the ingots of Aanloop Molengat, represents primary production. It is tempting to suggest that it was produced in Lesser Poland.

3.3 Iron in bars

Wrought-iron bars make up a large part of the cargo. Although oxidation is limited, the bars are cemented together in a continuous concretion (fig. 19). The bulk is 17.0 m long and varies between 6.30 and 7.50 m in width. At the southeastern end it has a central extension of 3.35 m, which is only 1.70 to 2.60 m wide. The pack is 30 to 60 cm thick along its sides. Several fissures occur in the concretion, notably a large lengthwise crack and a crack at right angles midways. Although the cracks may reflect some discontinuities in packing, they were specifically inspected for evidence of bundling in batches. As no such bundling has been observed, the breaks apparently occurred during the formation of the wreck site. No bars are folded as in the cargo of the Gresham Ship of half a century earlier (Auer & Firth 2007). The bars are tightly packed. The total weight of the shipment is estimated at more than 500 tons.[5]


Figure 19 Vertical view of wrought iron bars at the wreck-site (photo: P. Stassen (RCE)).

Most bars are rectangular in cross-section, 6 cm wide and 1.5-2 cm thick. Some are square with dimensions of 3.5 x 3.5 cm. Individual bars are at least 2.5 to 3.5 m long. The excavation did not interfere with the consolidated and concreted mass of this part of the cargo. Only eleven loose-lying bars were recovered. Samples show that the iron is in excellent condition (fig. 20). No marks were found on them.


Figure 20 A section of an iron bar shows the metal to be of excellent quality and preservation (photo: A. Overmeer (RCE)).

In order to define production and determine or exclude provenance, a sample was taken of iron bar AM-1999-73 for metallurgical analysis by Joosten & Nienhuis (2012hyperlinkJ&N). Iron and slag inclusions were analysed by energy-dispersive X-ray analysis (EDX, ThermoScientific, NSS) in a scanning electron microscope (SEM, JSM5910LV). Carbon content is 0.7% of the weight, which is appropriate for wrought-iron. The iron contains around 1% of small slag inclusions that are aligned as a result of folding during forging. The core of the sample is ferrite; the cover is steel. This might indicate that the wrought-iron is carbon-enriched in a specialised furnace (Tylecote 1992). Most of the inclusions consist of one phase, fayalite, a glass low in iron and high in calcium, wüstite or quartz. Some inclusions consist of two phases, mainly fayalite and glass. The ratio between SiO2/Al2O3 indicates that some inclusions derive from additions, i.e. sand, during the post-smelting phase. In plotting the major element composition of the rest of the inclusions in a diagram distinguishing the direct from the indirect processes (Dillmann et al. 2007), it is shown that they most probably derive from the direct process. The low manganese and phosphorus content of the inclusions excludes production from high manganese and phosphorus ores.

Iron was produced in the Low Countries, but not on a scale to assume wholesale export; rather, it was imports from Sweden that satisfied the demand (Kuiper 2006, 65; Gawronski 1996, 281). The provenance of the wrought-iron bars might effectively be Sweden, which is known for exporting low-phosphorus steel in the period (Pleiner 2000). Witsen (1671, 119) discusses iron bars, their markings and relative qualities and refers to ‘steel’ from Nuremberg as being 10% more valuable than ‘Swedish steel’. Present research does not permit a final characterisation. No markings have been identified and the relative manganese and phosphor content of ores exploited in the 17th century, including those from Sweden and Bavaria, has not been studied comprehensively. Archaeological parallels are few. The bars in the ‘Gresham ship’ of the outgoing 16th century (Auer & Firth 2007) derive – at least partly – from a manganese-rich and therefore different source (Birch 2010; Birch & Martinón-Torres forthcoming). An adequate comparison for the 17th century is BZN2/BZN15 (Vos 2012), whereas the Hollandia and the Sophia Albertina provide similar material for the 18th century (Gawronski 1996; Overmeer 2012).


Figure 21 A characteristic barrel with tin rolls, on top of the wreck-mound. Barrel construction could not be studied in detail. The observed staves and head pieces are spruce (Picea. sp., determination Y. Vorst, RCE). Each barrel must have contained approximately 80 tin rolls, giving it a weight close to 400 kg (photo: A. Vos (RCE)).

3.4 Tin in rolls, packed in barrels

At the southeastern end, a tier of spruce barrels was stacked on top of the wrought-iron bars. These barrels had broken up and their contents had been dispersed, but their bases and some of their contents were still found in their original position at the top of the wreck mound (fig. 21). The barrels contained tin in a typical form of roughly cast sheets, rolled in a rough cylinder, approximately 40 cm long (fig. 22). The weight of the rolls varies considerably and is 4.727 kg on average. Some rolls are preserved in excellent condition, others have decayed and eroded. In total 1514 kg of tin has been excavated, deriving from a minimum number of 359 rolls. An interesting bonus is a few pieces that can be interpreted as quality samples (fig. 23) rather than ordinary production (cf. Reinheckel 2002, 29). The total weight of the shipment, including barrels, must have been at least two tons.


Figure 22 A typical roll of tin (AM-7.8.3) with marks from Horní Blatná, length 42 cm, weight 4210 g (photo: T. Penders (RCE)).


Figure 23 A quality sample of tin (AM-1999-56), weight 345 g, width 9 cm (photo: T. Penders (RCE)).

The sheets generally have three marks, applied with a die in a molten appliqué. Twenty-four different dies have been identified (HyperlinkTerhorst). The images include a range of heraldic symbols, years, monograms and words in German, for instance: ‘SEIFFEN*ZIN*VON*DER*PLATEN’. In 1988, the general provenance and probable quality (‘Drei-Zeichen-Zinn’) was established with the help of the Sektion Bergbauforschung des Kulturbundes der DDR, Ortsgruppe Seiffen. ‘Seiffen’ does not refer to the town in Saxony, but ‘Platen’ refers to Horní Blatná on the southern flank of the Erzgebirge/Krušné Hory (Ore Mountains), in the present-day Czech Republic, which was called ‘Platten’ under Bohemian rule. Vítězslav Bartoš (1994), a local historian from the city of Karlovy Vary, correlated the marks with individual mines. Besides the mines of Platten/Horní Blatná, these include the mines of nearby Seifen/Rýžovna, Hengst(er)erben/Hřebečná and Gottesgab/Boží Dar. A smaller portion derives from Eibenstock in Saxony on the northern flank of the Erzgebirge. As five more dies have been recognised since 1994, some tin may derive from other locations that have not been identified.


Figure 24 Seifen extraction pits and waste dumps near Horní Blatná (photo: Th. Maarleveld, Oct. 1989 (RCE)).

In the Erzgebirge, tin ore (cassiterite) was primarily extracted from Seifen, a term that refers to alluvial placer deposits (fig. 24). Water was used extensively to sort and rinse the ore. It is the simplest method of extraction and produces the purest ore. Subsurface mining only took place once alluvial deposits were exhausted (Hedges 1964, 13). Operations in the Erzgebirge are extensively and analytically described by Georgius Agricola (1556) (fig. 25), who lived in Annaberg in Saxony and had first-hand knowledge of the works. He does not specifically refer to Horní Blatná, but mentions nearby Joachimsthal/Jachymow. Tin from contaminated ore was usually cast in bun ingots that could be smelted for further refining. This was unnecessary for Seifenzinn: . . . ‘if the metal is pure, it is poured immediately upon thick copper plates, at first in straight lines and then transversely over these to make a lattice’ (Agricola 1556, book IX; transl. Hoover & Hoover 1950, 414). An experienced smelter could separate any contaminations immediately and the quality was tested visually while pouring (pers.comm. Dr Christoph Bartels, 2011). Unrolled sheets from Aanloop Molengat reflect the lattice pattern that Agricola describes (fig. 26). After a sheet was rolled with a wooden mallet, each roll was impressed with an iron die. According to Agricola, low-quality tin had one mark, while Seifenzinn had two. The rolls from Eibenstock reflect this. The rolls from the Bohemian production centres all have three marks: two regional denominations, patented by the crown,[6] and a producer’s mark (HyperlinkComb). Although the third mark was probably introduced to suggest even better quality, and although that suggestion is attractive to Bartoš (1994, 2), analysis with XRF shows a tin content of more than 99% for Bohemian and Saxon products alike (HyperlinkXRF). This high quality means that the metal could be used for many alloys and purposes, including high-quality cannon bronze and pewter finewares (Kellenbenz 1987; Dubbe 1978).


Figure 25 Plates from Agricola's De Re Metallica of 1556. From left to right, a: seifen extraction and washing in a diverted stream, book VII; b: pooring fluid tin on a thick copper plate in a lattice pattren; c: the lattice sheets are rolled with a wooden mallet, book IX (from: Hoover&Hoover 1950 , 337, 415, 418).

The stamps feature dates in the range from 1556 to 1630. Evidently they refer to the dates when the patent was established or the trading and production house was founded and the die was made. It is likely that the tin was produced shortly after 1630. As a result of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), production in the area had fallen considerably, but Aanloop Molengat shows that it still had its share of the international market (Kellenbenz 1987). Despite the war that profoundly affected the region in those years, it is likely that the tin was collected in the staples of Nuremberg or Leipzig, where the important entrepreneurs in the German tin trade were established. Prices had risen steeply in response to armament demand (Bartoš 1994). The Peace of Prague (30 May 1635) may have been a good occasion to resume trade, but the Main-Rhine route through to Amsterdam was frequently blocked and continued to be impeded after the blockades of 1634-1635 (Haller von Hallerstein 1975, 63; Israel 1980, 473-475). It is therefore likely that the Elbe route through Hamburg was followed. The fact that this route was not uncommon is illustrated by a decree of 1613 establishing the wages of skippers transporting ‘tin in barrels’ from Hamburg to Amsterdam (van Dillen 1929, 44-47). A source relating to a dispute on tin quality involving Leiden tinsmiths refers to Hengst(erben) as one of the sources of tin in rolls (Anon. 1592). At what point en route the rolls were packed in barrels is unclear. It cannot have been at the site of production. Several assemblages of rolls were found in close association, either with the remains of their barrel or cemented together. Not all rolls in these assemblages had the same marks. They must have been packed at a middleman’s or conveyor’s entrepôt. With 70 to 90 rolls in each barrel, we are dealing with a shipment of four, five or six barrels in total.


Figure 26 An unrolled sheet (AM-2/ clearly shows that fluid tin was poured on a (copper) plate in the way Agricola describes. The sheet measures 40 x 70 cm (photo: T. Penders (RCE)).

3.5 Bovine hides, in bales

Adjoining the tin barrels, bales of leather were stacked in a cross-ships tier on top of the wrought-iron bars, with a few wooden stakes in between (Blok forthcoming). Two bales were found in their stowage position. One bale was found off the wreck mound. The bales had been stowed lengthwise on their sides, with the hides vertically. The hides in all three bales were smoothly abraded along the top, indicating that they had been exposed for some time and that the third bale had only recently broken away (see fig. 3). For the central bale, abrasion is very limited, thus allowing the composition and folding to be analysed. Each bale originally measured 180 x 150 x 80 cm and was packed in matting (figs.27 and 28). The hides were tanned and were all bovine. Two hides, sometimes joined with a string, were folded together to form a bundle (fig. 29) (Kleij 1992b, 18-22). Each bale contained 60-65 bundles, approximately 375 hides in all. The density of leather is approximately 945 kg/m3, so the three bales would have weighed little less than two tons.


Figure 27 The bale of bovine hides that had abraded most at the top was not dismantled. As most of the objects recovered from the Aanloop Molengat site, it is exposed in the National Depot for Ship Archaeology in Lelystad, the Netherlands (photo: T. Penders (RCE)).


Figure 28 Fragment of matting that was used in wrapping the hide in bales (photo: J. Nientker (RCE)).


Figure 29 Folding method of the hides, as reconstructed by Stikker and Kleij (drawing: P. Kleij (RCE)).

Close scrutiny by Stikker (1988; 1991) and Kleij (1992b) revealed the characteristics of the cattle and of the processing the hides had been subjected to. Teats, for instance, were visible’and cows and bulls (or oxen) are represented in equal quantities, both old and young.

The cattle are small beef stock with a shoulder height of approximately 130 cm. The method of slaughtering varied, with most having a lengthwise incision at the throat. Others had a crosscut, which is characteristic, for instance, of Jewish and Islamic slaughtering. About one third of the hides displayed skinning cuts, some of them stitched up with botanical fibres. Stretching holes of 1 cm were cut approximately four cm from the edge and six cm apart. Several hides had a mark on the tail or right buttock, of which the meaning remains unresolved (fig. 30).


Figure 30 Several marks on tail or right buttock from bales AM-1/ West and AM-1/ East (drawing: N. Stikker/P. Kleij (RCE)).

The find is exceptional and knowledge of this raw material for leatherworking is not common. The expertise of the late W.B. van Herwijnen, formerly of TNO leather research institute in Waalwijk, proved invaluable. Author of a book on leather technology in the 1950s (van Herwijnen 1956), Van Herwijnen had been involved throughout his career in the quality assessment of leather from different sources and of tanning processes. He assessed the Aanloop Molengat hides as being of mediocre but varying quality. The preparation and tanning processes had not been meticulous. Skinning and cropping had been done roughly. Graining, a lengthy process of removing the hair with lime or flowing water, cleaning the inner side and curing the outer side with dog or bird excrement to make them supple, had left occasional patches of black or dark red hair. The inner and outer surfaces were well-tanned, but the interior was not. As a consequence, many hides split. The hides had been tanned with botanical tanning agents, coarsely diffused in water. The product suggests simple tan pits with a mix of oak, horse chestnut and chestnut barks as tanning agents, possibly enriched with mimosa or sumac. Long exposure to seawater has partly reversed the tanning process. Stretching holes indicate the final flattening, cleaning and possibly greasing of the sheets, but are cut irregularly.

The leather should be considered half-finished, to be curried (and possibly re-tanned) on arrival. Despite the varying quality of the individual sheets, the overall composition of the bales seems to be uniform (Kleij 1992b, 39). This indicates that production was dispersed and the shipment was gathered and purchased through a middleman.

The leather industry and commerce in the Low Countries processed hides not only from local tanneries, but also from Scandinavia, Germany, England, Spain and (from the early 17th century) Africa and America (Baart 1977, 69-71). On the basis of texture, grain, size and tanning, Van Herwijnen assumed a provenance from southern Europe, more specifically Spain. South America is another possibility (Kleij 1992b, 40). During the years 1630-1650 Amsterdam boasted a lively trade in ‘West-Indian’ (Southern American) hides.

In order to try and establish the breeding and provenance (Lenstra 2009), six samples of cattle hide were submitted for DNA research in 2011. They included material to which hairs adhered. The samples were examined by F. Welker using the facilities of NCB Naturalis (Welker et al. forthcoming). Only low concentrations of human DNA were found, and it is unclear whether these are contemporary or a recent contamination.

The fibres used to stitch the cuts and the matting in which the leather was packed were studied to identify the plant species used. The fibres derived from woody species or bark, possibly alder or willow, which are very common species. The matting possibly derived from broad-leaved cottongrass (Eriophorum latifolium), which is native to raised bogs and has not previously been identified as packing material (Brinkkemper & Joosten 2012; HyperlinkBrink). The outermost layer of cells (epidermis) was too poorly preserved to allow certain identification. Cottongrass occurs in large parts of Europe, and since the identification is uncertain, no inferences can be made regarding the origin of the bovine hides.

3.6 Textiles, with lead cloth seals

A total of 101 lead cloth seals have been found. Most were discovered in a wide spread in the excavation squares southeast of the wreck mound; a single one was found in the southwestern trial trench of 1985. This first seal comes from Mons in Hainaut and is provisionally interpreted as marking cloth of ordinary quality (Maarleveld 1988). On hindsight the seal is not as representative as then assumed. Only one other ‘Mons’ seal has shown up, as against 26 from Leiden, three from Delft, and ten from Hondschoote in the ‘Westhoek’ of Flanders (fig. 31). This means that the most important production centres of the Republic and of the Spanish Netherlands are represented. Another 16 cloth seals remain unidentified, whereas 44 merchant marks refer to individual merchants.


Figure 31 Lead cloth seals from (from left to right) Leiden, Delft, Hondschoote and Mons (photo: T. Penders(RCE)).

Frank van Deijk, who specialises in Leiden industry, undertook a study of these objects from that perspective. The collection is presented here for reference, without individual marks having been explored in full (HyperlinkDeijk). It must be assumed that the seals were attached to cloth that had been packed and stowed in the hold, on top of the heavy and more durable cargo and which decayed more or less on site, rather than being swept away with the ship’s upper parts.

A small cloth sample, enclosed in a seal from Delft, is the only textile that remained. Cloth seals are small, and many may have gone unnoticed in the excavation of shifting sands. The number of seals suggests that they represent a considerable shipment, but this is hard to assess. It is also impossible to say where exactly the bales were stowed, or whether the bales from the Northern Netherlands were stowed together or separately from the consignments that left fewer traces.

Leiden’s wool-based textile industry has been fairly well studied (Posthumus 1939; van Deijk 1993). Since the 1580s, it was organised in large corporations (neringen) that saw to the production of a specific kind of fabric. Each had its own type of cloth seal. Of the Aanloop Molengat seals, 26 were issued by the saainering, which was Leiden’s main trade until 1660. There is a striking similarity with woodcut images of seals and stamps in the organisation’s 1594 by-laws. In combination with other evidence, it is certain that all seals with the inscription LEYDS GVET (Leiden cloth) must originally have been attached to either ‘saye’ (saai) or ‘grosgrain’ (grein or grogrein). Both are non-felted fabrics. Saye (or serge) is woven in a twill pattern (keper) from strong worsted (kamgaren). Grosgrain is a plain woven fabric with a ribbed appearance as a result of the weft being thicker than the warp. In Leiden grosgrain, the warp is twined. The wool for both products was obtained from Scotland, Pomerania and Holland.

Unlike many of the merchant seals, the Leiden saainering seals have one pin. Although this does not show in the published photographs, the almost identical seals from the Wittenbergen wreck in the Elbe have two pins (Bracker 1986). This corroborates their 16th-century dating (Stanek 2011). Double-pin seals were prevalent up until 1593. A 1594 by-law made single-pin seals the norm (Posthumus 1912, 238). The dies used for the Aanloop Molengat seals show variations that are hitherto unknown. The obverse shield normally has a round base, but here a more Renaissance-style shield also appears. Varieties of the reverse are more significant. In 1630 it became obligatory to mark the year.[7] The most common reverse consistently includes the date 1635, divided either side of a rampant lion (see fig. 43). The imprint of another die has the inscription ‘[an]no 16[..]’, the year being unclear. The third type probably also had a date.

It is not just the type of seal, however, which primarily indicated the type and quality of the fabric produced under control of the saainering, but rather their number (up to five) and spacing. A saye fragment with three seals, found in Amsterdam, illustrates the system (Baart 1988). Luckily, there are some additional clues, for instance counter-stamped tally marks that indicate the length in Brabant ells (69.8 cm). Each cloth received one tally mark only. Six seals have a mark for 36 cubits (approx. 25.13 m). The by-laws give standards for gross length, before finishing would cause shrinkage. The closest match is for herensaai, the top-quality product. This fabric would have had about 20 threads per cm width. Other counter stamps give an indication of grades of quality: L stands for first quality (three seals), X for second quality (two seals). One seal is special. It also bears a ‘split eagle’ mark (fig. 32). The eagle marks of the Leiden saainering point to different qualities of blue woad dye as a basis for black (one eagle), light violet (split eagle) or deep violet (double eagle). They were used for herensaai and grein/grogrein exclusively and thus support the conclusion on the basis of the tally marks (Posthumus 1914, 60 (par. 21), 69, (par. 64), 70 (par. 80), 75 (par. 101); Posthumus 1939, 1176).


Figure 32 Split eagle tally mark on a Leiden cloth seal AM-H-28, indicating the light-violet color of the fabric. A similar split eagle was found on a cloth seal from Delft (photo: T. Penders (RCE)).


Figure 33 Sample of fabric (AM-1993-65-5), twill, woven from worsted. Length is 1.5 cm (photo: T. Penders (RCE)).

The Delft seals can be discussed more briefly. A sample of fabric was taken from one of these. Again we find twill, woven from worsted (fig. 33) (Nientker 2011 HyperlinkNientker). This means we are dealing with Delft saai. Its production started in 1595-96, when ten Leiden drapers moved to Delft, much to Leiden’s chagrin (Posthumus 1912, 249-271, 273-274). High-performance liquid chromatography shows that the dye used was derived from woad or indigo, madder and a third, unidentified colouring agent (at a very low concentration). New, the fabric was probably purple (van Bommel & Joosten 2012 HyperlinkBommelJoosten). Interestingly, another Delft seal has a ‘split eagle’ counter stamp. According to regulations from the 1640s, Delft saai had to be dyed in Leiden. Earlier rulings remain unclear, but the present find seems to indicate that this had been standing practice.

The Hondschoote textile industry has been the subject of one of the classic studies in the French Annales School of socioeconomic history (Coornaert 1930). Like Leiden, Hondschoote produced cloth of different qualities. Both were at the peak of their production at the time of the Aanloop Molengat wreck (Deyon 1972, 26). In both cities, the emphasis seems to have been on different qualities of sayes and regulations are particularly comprehensive for the highest quality of doucques and sayes de seigneurs (Coornaert, 216ff.). Although it is therefore quite possible that the Hondschoote consignment matched the quality of the herensaai from Leiden, we cannot establish the connection between the actual lead cloth seals and the quality they represent. By comparison with Leiden and Hondschoote, the industry of Hainaut – and specifically that of Mons – has been less well-studied, as a major part of the relevant archives were destroyed in May 1940 (Verriest 1942a; Verriest 1942b). Assumptions about the type of fabric represented by the Mons seals are therefore hard to corroborate.

The cargo contained textiles produced in urban industries in Holland, Flanders and Hainaut. It is not known how much or whether these were packed together or separately. What is known is that the shipment included at least six, but more likely ten, pieces of herensaai produced in Leiden. Four were certainly of first quality (including a light violet one), another four were presumably first quality, and two were of second quality. It can be assumed that all these pieces were dyed, which was compulsory for herensaai. After being folded into a square and placed in a large heated press, the sides were stitched together using a silk thread. There was also purple saai that had been produced in Delft and dyed in Leiden, and Hondschoote textiles that may well have been sayes of similar quality. It is no more than an assumption that the cloth from Mons was ordinary.

3.7 Ivory

A large elephant tusk was found firmly cemented to the top and side of the iron bulk, close to its northern corner (at 21.5 m). The concretion features the impressions of at least two more tusks (fig. 34). The tusk has a diameter of about 13 cm at its base, and a length of more than 1.15 m (fig. 35). Only large African elephants have tusks of that size (Rijkelijkhuizen 2011, table 2).


Figure 34 In situ sketch of the elephant tusk (tand) and impressions (afdruk) around it (from: Divereport Maarleveld 10-07-1992).


Figure 35 Elephant tusk in situ in iron concretion (photo: A. Vos (RCE)).

Since its establishment in 1621, the West India Company was the main importer of ivory to the Dutch Republic (Rijkelijkhuizen 2011, 228). Elephant tusks were obtained from the Gold Coast in West Africa, present-day Ghana, particularly at Fort Nassau and Elmina. The Dutch did not hunt elephants themselves, but depended on the African inhabitants to bring tusks from far afield, perhaps even from East Africa (Rijkelijkhuizen 2011, 230). Ivory was used by craftsmen in the Dutch Republic for all sorts of purposes – lice combs, knife handles, toys, items for personal care, knitting and needlework items, parts of musical instruments, dice, fans, brushes, needles, piano keys, buttons, syringes, boxes and inlay for furniture and weaponry (Rijkelijkhuizen 2009, 427) – and was sold at one guilder a pound (den Heijer 1997, 135). It was also exported, for instance to Asia, where large African elephant tusks were highly valued.

3.8 Quicksilver, in bottles?

During the excavation, small beads of mercury were occasionally found, rolling in hollows in the sand, in the grooves of wrought-iron or adhering to brass pins. A few drops were collected (fig. 36), most of them together with pins. Although there was some apprehension with regard to the presence and handling of mercury (and lead), this did not lead to a precautionary regime in the excavation. Protective clothing and dive suits were evidently worn, and common sense in handling was relied upon. Although only small amounts were registered, these were found so dispersed that they must represent a considerable shipment.


Figure 36 Mercury drop, collected from Aanloop Molengat (photo: T. Penders (RCE)).

Mercury or quicksilver is occasionally found in historical wrecks. It is relatively rare and expensive. Mined at various places in Europe, such as France, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Spain and the Balkan peninsula, it was used in thermometers and barometers, in making mirrors and felt hats. Large amounts were needed in metallurgical processes, notably the extraction of silver. Although it was traded over long distances, transport of the liquid and very heavy metal (density of 13546 kg/m3) was problematic.

In an 18th-century Spanish wreck off the Dominican Republic, a large consignment of mercury has been discovered in small casks packed in cases (Peterson 1979). Evidently, various containers were tried, as is reflected in successive directives of the Dutch East India Company VOC (Green 1977). In the 17th century it was shipped to Asia, probably to be used for the gilding of objects (Sténuit 1977, 441-443). It was also taken on board as part of the ship’s pharmacy (Gawronski 1996, 212). In archaeological literature, Bellarmine jugs are referred to as the most common containers for mercury in the Aanloop Molengat period (Green 1977, 481). No sherds of such jugs were found. The only possible container elements in the assemblage are lead screw caps (fig. 37). Twenty-three caps were found, consisting of a lower part, which was attached to a glass bottle, and an upper part, which could be screwed onto the lower part. The caps have a diameter of 1.8 to 2.3 cm and a height of 2.0 to 2.4 cm. XRF measurements revealed mercury inside these caps, at the bottleneck (van Os 2011 HyperlinkVan Os). This mercury may have attached itself to the caps in the same way as it did to pins, but it would be more logical to assume that the mercury was stored and transported in glass bottles with lead screw caps. The same suggestion is made in relation to bottle caps and neck reinforcements of similar type in the assemblage from the Lastdrager that wrecked in 1653 (Sténuit 1977, 440).[8] It is notable that one of the 1636 VOC regulations recommends the use of square bottles in a case (Green 1977, 481). Although some glass was found, it is too little for reconstructing bottle form and size. Square capped storage bottles (kelderflessen) are known in sizes varying from 235 ml to 1.8 l or more (Henkes 1994, 236-244). If the caps sat on bottles of 1.2 litres, 23 bottles would account for approximately 375 kg of mercury. It is likely, however, that the 23 caps represent only a fraction of the total number of bottles.


Figure 37 Screw cap with a sherd of glass. Although similar caps are generally referred to as pewter, these caps are 90 to 97% lead. Diameter cap is 3 cm (photo: T. Penders (RCE)).

3.9 Spices and seeds

In dismantling the bales of leather, hundreds of impressions of seeds were visible in the iron concretion, and a few uncharred round seeds could be recovered (Kleij 1992b, 17). The seeds had been hermetically sealed in between the hides and were therefore well preserved. The botanical remains were analysed by M. Manders and W.J. Kuijper at the Institute for Prehistory, Leiden University.

The spherical seeds are the most conspicuous (fig. 38). They are identified as black pepper (Piper nigrum). As the outer skin is lacking, white pepper is another possibility. The largest peppercorns are 4.5 mm across (Manders 1992, 43).


Figure 38 Drawing of two sides of a pepper corn, 4 x 3.8 mm (drawing: M. Manders (RCE)).

Impressions of cereal remains, in particular wheat grains (Triticum aestivum), were visible in the iron concretion. Husks of wheat grains were found in between the hides (Manders 1992, 43-44). In addition, two seeds of corn cockle (Agrostemma githago), a crop weed that is notorious for being poisonous, were found among the seeds.

The presence of pepper, an expensive spice, could indicate a shipment for trade. However, the combination with cereal remains in almost negligible quantities could also mean that pepper and wheat were taken on board for consumption, and only ended up with the cargo as a result of the wrecking process.

3.10 Brass pins

From 1985 to 1999, a total of 719 pins were found in excavation. Their length varies from 2.4 to 7.8 cm, their diameter from 0.4 to 1.2 mm and their heads from 1 to 3 mm (n=179). Several groups can be distinguished: small pins of 2.4-2.7 cm, pins of 3.4 to 3.9 cm, pins of 4.0-4.5 cm, pins with a length of 5.4-6.0 cm, pins with a length of 6.8-7.2 cm and large pins of 7.5-7.8 cm (Chart 6, fig. 39). Interestingly, four types of pins are mentioned in a deed from 1590 (van Dillen 1929, nr. 789).



Chart 6 Length distribution of the pins.


Figure 39 Pins (AM-1993-2) of four different lengths (photo: T. Penders RCE)).

The pins were discovered throughout the excavated area in the southeast. Of the 490 pins found there, 11.4% came from section A, 35.3% from section B, 8.4% from section C, 20.2% from section E, 9.0% from section F and 7.4% from section J. A concentration of finds occurs in the south and east corners of the frame. However, pins are light and may easily have been moved around with moving sediment or by airlift, so a definite stacking location for the brass pins cannot be derived from this spread.

The pins are made of drawn brass wire. At one end the pins have a sharpened point; at the other a twisted pinhead is attached. The pinpoints are quite sharp; sometimes one side of the pin is sharpened over a longer surface than the other side. The pinhead mostly consists of two coils, usually twisted to the right, and occasionally to the left (fig. 40). Some pins have a thickened upper end instead of a twisted pinhead, but nevertheless seem to be complete (Raymakers 1996, 20).

Pins with a twisted head were manufactured from the beginning of the 16th to the first half of the 19th century. The Low Countries were an important exporter and during the first half of the 16th century most of the pins used in England were imported from there (Harsman 2010, 48). Amsterdam, Bremen and Gloucester were the centres of 17th-century pin-making (van Dillen 1929, nr. 789). In 16th and 17th-century Amsterdam, pin-making was typically a domestic industry, in which all family members were involved. In the second half of the 17th century, the Nieuwe Werk quarter (later called de Jordaan) had seven pin-makers’ alleys (Oldewelt 1946, 158-160; Baart 1977, 135). In later centuries, there was a trend towards the establishments of workshops (Baart 1977, 133).


Figure 40 Detailed drawing of a pinhead (drawing: M. Manders (RCE)).

A pin may be a simple artefact, but the process of pin-manufacturing was an elaborate one. First, the brass wire was cleaned and then drawn into the thickness required, cut to length and sharpened. Another (finer) wire was twisted to form the head. The heads were attached to the shanks by being struck with a heavy ram. The pins were then cleaned or yellowed, tin plated, polished and stuck into papers before being offered for sale (Philips 1821, 299-301).

From the 15th to the 18th century, pins were a luxury and expensive (Raymakers 1996, 27). In the 18th century, production processes changed. Pins were made in factories and became less expensive, but their appearance remained exactly the same. Adam Smith uses pin-making in his famous Wealth of Nations to show how productivity rises through division of labour, and describes the process in detail. To make one pin, eighteen actions had to be performed, which were done by ten people. One person performing these steps alone could make 20 pins a day. The ten people together could make 48,000 pins a day (Smith 1776, 5).[9]

Pins were used in handwork and needlework, for making clothes and hats, and for fastening clothes. In early modern times, sleeves and bodices were pinned to the rest of the clothes. According to Van Deijk it is unlikely that the pins were used for the textile shipment. We must therefore assume that they were packed separately. Paper packages as described in literature are likely to have been packed in larger packages, but we have no archaeological evidence as to how, and they barely contribute to the overall weight of the cargo. The trade in pins is documented in other ship finds such as BZN 2 in the Texel Roads (built 1662-1665, wrecked around 1670), where pins, rolls of brass thread and lead cloth seals were found (Vos 2012). A later example is the Amsterdam that ran aground near Hastings in 1749 (Gawronski 1986, 46).

3.11 Cannon balls in cases

Cast-iron cannon balls have been found in great numbers. Approximately amidships these cannon balls are cemented to the top of the iron bars. Originally, they were packed in wooden boxes of sizes varying from 62 x 45 to 80 x 53 cm and a height of 30 to 40 cm. The wood has decayed, but the iron shot has concreted in a box-shape. Two rows of four to five boxes are discernible (fig. 41), but the distribution of stray cannon balls suggests that the whole area between 11.50 and 16.75 (3.5 x 6.75 m) was packed with 40 boxes at least. Depending on calibre, each box would weigh 400 kg or more, a shipment of at least 16 ton.


Figure 41 Vertical view of some of the rectangular concretions of cannon balls that reflect the wooden cases in which these have been packed (photo: P. Stassen (RCE)).

Only seventeen of these cannon balls have been recovered from the wreck. The calibres vary from 37.9 to 96.0 mm. The sample is interpreted as including four one-pounders, five two-pounders, one three-pounder, one four-pounder, four five-pounders and one seven-pounder (van der Linden forthcoming). This shot is assumed to be cargo; the calibre is too small for the cannon discovered at the wreck site.

3.12 Other cases

No recognisable cargo has been found northwest of the rows of boxes with cannon balls, but rectangular impressions in the wrought-iron imply that cargo in, for example, crates had been stacked there. Cases with quicksilver bottles could be among them.

3.13 Nails in barrels

The remains of five barrels have been found, solidly concreted and with indistinct contents. One of these was recovered in 1992. The cask has a height of 67 cm, a minimum diameter of 41 cm at top and bottom and a maximum diameter of 51 cm in the middle. The weight of the object is 302 kg. Staves, hoops, barrel lid and bottom are decayed, but the grain of the wood is still visible in the iron concretion. The cask was X-rayed and proved to be filled to the brim with square wrought-iron nails in a jumble (Stassen 1997).[10] Since entering the conservation lab, the block of nails has been used as a training and testing object for iron conservation and restoration. Many nails have been chipped off. All nails are straight, complete and unused. They vary considerably in length (6.3 to 13.7 cm, n=30) and cross-section (rectangular, 4 to 7 mm), but are clearly not scrap (fig. 42). Consequently, they are either cargo or spare parts (Blok forthcoming). If the other five barrels also contain nails, which is likely if we are dealing with cargo, the shipment would account for at least 1.5 tons. The lifted barrel does not seem to have been the largest.

The 18th-century Dutch East India Company (VOC) is known to have ordered nails of various sizes from the forges in Liège. The nails were delivered in baskets and repacked into casks. The repacking was done in a careful radial pattern (Gawronski 1996, 281-282), very different from what we see here. Other wrecks in the Texel Roads, for instance Texelstroom IV (Kleij 1992a), have produced barrels of nails that were packed in the same jumble.


Figure 42 Nails from barrel AM-106.1.2, of various lengths (photo: K. Blok (RCE)).