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A club of waterlogged oak. Photo: Anneli Karlsson, SMTM.

Black Oak, Blue Heritage

In Sweden, the waterlogged, dark/blackish oakwood which in English is referred to as bog oak is usually derived from old warships. What aspects pf Swedish naval history have been promoted through the salvage and reuse of this wreck wood? How has the fragmentation of the wood from the wrecks affected the awareness of the ships’ history and the assessment of the wreck sites? This subproject aims to explore the cultural history and materiality of waterlogged oak.

Wood which has been preserved in water or underground can with time and under the right conditions take on a dark coloring. In contrast to many other countries, where this dark-colored wood primarily is associated with wood found in bogs, the main source in Sweden and the Baltic Sea is old warship wrecks. As a consequence, in Sweden the darkened wreck wood is intimately associated with maritime archaeological sites and loaded with memories of the naval past.

Still today, objects and architecture details, made out of waterlogged oak, can be found in city centers, churches, living rooms and wardrooms. Few if any other types of archaeological material have been fragmented, reshaped and used in new contexts as have the old warships of the Baltic Sea.

This subproject discusses reuse and circulation of salvaged wreck wood in relation to memory processes and the legacy of the “Lost navy”.

The subproject will draw on field observations, interviews, archives and the Atlas module database produced in the research program.

This subproject will run 2023–2026 and is part of the program’s cultural heritage module.

Name of the Subproject

Black Oak, Blue Heritage – the Material Circulation of Former Men-of-war.


Project leader

Mirja Arnshav, archaeologist, The National Maritime and Transport Museums

E-mail: Mirja.arnshav@smtm.se

Page last updated: 2021-06-07