In 1635 or shortly thereafter, a Dutch ship was laden with all sorts of materials and products, mostly metals, but also textiles from the booming wool industries in both Flanders and Holland, a shipment of leather and exotic ivory. It was a ship of considerable size (at least 300 last) and departed from the Dutch Republic at a time of profound troubles. The Eighty Years’ War between the Republic and Spain was far from settled. War at sea was unremitting and intensifying, with Dunkirk privateers an unruly menace to Dutch shipping. Spanish rule in the southern Low Countries was highly militarised, and constant campaigns were waged against it from the North. Central Europe was devastated by the Thirty Years’ War, which had entered a new phase through new alliances. The heavy and strategically valuable cargo of the Dutch ship was assembled from North and South, as well as from a range of places in central Europe. The ship departed for a destination that it never reached. It sank off the coast of Texel, where it was discovered 350 years later.
From 1985 to 1999 the wreck site and finds were subject to archaeological research, producing information on the ship, its setting and historical context as well as on the production and distribution of the individual shipments in the cargo, and informing us about the structure of early modern industry and trade, operating despite and because of the war. The present study, initiated by Wilma Gijsbers in 2010 and supported by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE), the Maritime Archaeology Programme at the University of Southern Denmark (MAP-SDU) and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO; a one-year Odyssee grant), is the first to bring together all this evidence and evaluate it as a whole. Central to the study is the analysis of the ship and cargo assemblage as excavated, which is presented in Part 2 and 3 of this article. This is combined with an analysis of the discovery, its impact and the efficiency of fieldwork methodology in Part 1, and with reflections on the contribution the project makes to our understanding of production, trade and international relations in the specific historical context in Part 4.