Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 4-1 (October 2012)Joep Verweij; Wouter Waldus; André van Holk: Continuity and change in Dutch shipbuilding in the Early Modern period. The case of VAL7 and the watership in general.


The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are characterised as a period of rapid growth in Dutch shipbuilding in which Holland has a central role. Holland is one of the seven provinces at the time in the newly founded Dutch Republic. Ships in Holland grow bigger with multi-mast rigging to carry more cargo over larger distances across the world. In the case of the locally operated watership this is not so apparent. In fact, the general opinion is that there was continuity in the remarkably robust medieval design of this ship type up to the point that the last ships were built at the dawn of the nineteenth century. This article will feature the VAL7 watership recently lifted from the river bottom near Amsterdam to highlight constructional differences with other wrecks from waterships found in the reclaimed land area of the former Zuiderzee. This will be generalized to reveal indications for change in watership design. At least two major design changes have been identified involving increased dimensions and better manoeuvrability. Also a transition from a lap-strake hull to a flush hull is made in the case of the watership. An effort is made to find drivers for change in the context of a rapidly developing maritime infrastructure in Holland. It is appreciated that changing functional requirements and shipbuilding economics at a local level drive design change. The case of the watership shows that dynamics in society are reflected in the design and subsequent construction of ships.