We’ve spoken before about a 15-th century shipwreck that appeared in 2002, buried under the mud in Newport harbor while they were digging the foundations of a new arts center.
There was a fight between those who wanted to destroy the remains, as they were blocking the construction of a building, with the costs for delays skyrocketing, and those who wanted to preserve and study it. Fortunately, the idea to preserve it won out, meaning that this Welsh town has one of the largest maritime archaeological treasures in the world.
It was a mid-sized ship, 30 meters in length and weighing in at 400 tons, and it was being reconditioned between 1468 and 1469 after a voyage from the Iberian peninsula to Bristol, when its ties broke loose and it ended up sinking in the mud, where its remains were preserved for five centuries.
The reasons we talk about it so much is that all signs point to its having been built in the Basque Country, with wood from Basque forests. This idea, put forward in 2006 by Xabier Agote, the president of Albaola, received more backing in 2012, when dendochronology studies (counting the rings in the trees) was able to related the wood to that which grows in Araba and Navarre.
The BBC has followed the story closely, from its first appearance to the current rebuilding process to become the centerpiece of a museum which will cover not only the discovery, but also that part of history when Europeans were about to embark on the Age of Discovery.
We can’t help but note that this ship was sailing at about the same time, or perhaps just a bit earlier, than the Portuguese ships that sailed the African coast in order to find a maritime route to Asia and the Spice Islands (where, by the way, the Basques played a leading role). It could also be considered to be a member of the generation of ships that immediately preceded those which crossed the Atlantic to the New World or which rounded the Cape of Good Hope.
This is a time period in history when Basques were playing leading roles, even if their feats are “hidden,” even to the Basques themselves. As we said in the article when we explained that there was a point in time when the North Atlantic was the “Sea of the Basques,” few Basques are aware that the Basques were considered, at that time, to be the best sailors and shipbuilders in the world, and that their “chalupas” were considered the Formula 1 cars of their day.
But back to the Newport ship. As we were saying, the BBC has been following the story closely. Their most recent entry, by Peter Shuttleworth, talks about how rebuilding the wreck, with over 2,500 parts, 30 meters of length, and 25 tons of weight, could be considered the biggest “3D puzzle” in the world.
We’ll also take advantage of this new article about the ship to state that at the end of it, there is a summary of all the articles the BBC has written about it, to get a better view of the whole story, one which is at the same time very Basque, very Welsh, and very European.
Just one more connection between Wales and the Basque Country
BBC – 20/1/2023 – Great Britain
Newport’s medieval ship may have Basque country link
With almost 2,500 pieces, measuring 30 metres and weighing 25 tonnes, it has been called the world’s largest 3D puzzle. Archaeologists can now, after 20 years of painstaking restoration, start to reassemble the wreck of a 15th Century ship found in a south Wales riverbank. Experts believe the medieval vessel is as significant a find as the Mary Rose – and it is a century older. “The ship is of global significance and interest,” said TV historian Dan Snow.
Last Updated on Jan 22, 2023 by About Basque Country