A 700-year-old ship that archeologists believe played an important role in a burgeoning European trade system has been discovered in Estonia, just five feet under the street.
The 80-foot long ship found in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, is believed to be one of the best preserved ships ever found from around the 13th century. Early dating has placed the ship’s construction at around 1298.
“It’s believed to be a Hanseatic cog once owned by the Hanseatic League, a powerful merchant alliance spanning several European nations,” Metro U.K. reported. “The whole area used to be undersea, with the ship sinking close to the Härjapea river mouth.”
Larger than the average Hanseatic cog, archeologists believe that the newly discovered ship had sails allowing it to sail with less manpower and also was able to sail into shallow areas due to its flat bottom.
“The boards are intact up to three meters from the bottom of the ship,” archeologist Mihkel Tammet explained. “It is built using massive oak logs and planks. The ship has overlapping planking, sealed with animal hair and tar.
Construction workers stumbled upon the ship while working on new office buildings in the area. In 2008, another historic ship was discovered just 164 feet away from the new discovery, also during construction.
Tammet explained that the area where the ship was found used to be submerged by several feet of water.
”There were probably shallower underwater sand ridges which were hard to map because they changed their shape and location because of ice drifts and storms,” Tammet explained. “Our ship was found on one of these ridges under the sediments. It sank close to the Härjapea river mouth.”
The Hanseatic League, dominated by Germanic towns and cities, involved what is now the Netherlands, Britain, and Scandinavia in a vast trading network.
“By the time of its formal founding it had already established a monopoly on trade in the Baltic region through their center on Gotland Island in Sweden. From Gotland, the Hanseatic League was able to make firm trade alliances and secure even more lucrative arrangements with other nations,” the World History Encyclopedia explained.
The league grew quite profitable and remained quite powerful for about two hundred years, before starting to diminish in about the 15th century before disappearing in the 19th century.
Tallinn government archeologist announced that the ship would be moved from the construction site and likely to either a museum or a wreck preservation area.
“The wreck will be removed from its current position to allow the construction work to continue,” Ragnar Nurk, an archeologist, said according to The Mirror. “There are two main options currently: it will go to the maritime museum or to the wreck preservation area in Tallinn Bay near Naissaar Island.”
The ship will not be able to remain fully intact for the moving process.
“Unfortunately the size and restricted conditions of construction do not let us to move the ship away in one part,” Nurk stated.