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

3.7 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.