1.2 The site and its main characteristics
The site lies in 16 m of water in a dynamic sand-rich offshore area with significant changes in sediment cover. It is a high-energy zone that is subject to annual changes in the coastal slope just outside the ebb-tidal delta of the Texel inlet (Sha 1990). Seas build up easily due to long fetch for all directions between south, west and north-northeast. Nevertheless, the general appearance of the site is that of a consolidated ‘wreck’ mound in the sense of Frost’s (1962) description of amphora sites in the sediment-lean Mediterranean. This is due to the fact that remains rest on a hard glacial till, which they could not sink into and which was resistant to the scouring that normally occurs around a wreck site in a dynamic sandy environment. The ship sits almost upright and the lower hull is kept in place by the heavy cargo, whereas the sides have been destroyed by biological processes. The fact that the top of the wreck mound consisted of lighter cargo material, packages of leather that were only partly abraded and degraded on discovery probably means that the process of site formation has been an intermittent one, interrupted by long intervals of sand cover. It is assumed that the process of abrasion had just restarted when material was caught in trawling nets in 1984 and discovery ensued. It remains unclear how much of the lighter cargo is missing.
The upper works of the ship are absent. Its remains are likely to have spread over a considerable area. No secondary site was discovered in the vicinity. Apart from a number of heavy, cast-iron gun barrels, the excavation produced few artefacts other than cargo material.
The wreck mound extends over approximately 27 x 9 m and is oriented northwest-southeast. The associated find layer extends somewhat further and was eventually examined over an area of 33 x 13 m (fig. 2 HyperLink Drawing. During the first observations, the bales of leather, or rather the smoothly rounded surface of the abraded vertically placed sheets, were conspicuous at the top (fig. 3). They were firmly concreted to a layer of wrought-iron bars running parallel to them below. Immediately southeast of these, but still on the wrought-iron, rested a tier of broken barrels containing rolls of tin. Lead ingots could be observed below the iron bars. To the northwest of the leather packages, but also on top of the iron bars, rows of cases were in evidence through the cubic concretions of their contents, notably cast-iron cannon balls of various sizes.
A geological profile, cored perpendicular to the main axis of the wreck mound, shows a slight depression in the underlying till and a contaminated layer sharply wedging out away from the mound. It extends slightly more to the east than to the exposed west (fig. 4). A metre-wide trial trench excavated to check the extent of the find layer along the southwestern side produced a limited number of small finds. Hand-drawn profiles and descriptions show the top of the till to be irregularly eroded. It dates to the Drenthe phase of the Saalian glaciation (laagpakket van Gieten), also known as the Borkumriff Formation (Laban 1995). The contaminated find layer is well-sorted, with coarse shingle (and small finds) occurring only in its lower part (and pockets) (fig. 5). This is as much a product of natural reworking as of the repeated removal of topsoil before actual excavation could continue.
Figure 4 Cross-section on the basis of 1985 observations and coring (drawing: Th. Maarleveld adapted by P. Kleij (RCE)).