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16th century ship found at Kungsträdgården

During the summer of 2019, archaeologists from the archaeology consultancy Arkeologikonsult examined a shipwreck found near Kungsträdgården – a park in central Stockholm – which was made of pine and originally 30 meters long. After an analysis of the tree rings, the wood could be dated to the 1590s, thus revealing the identity of the ship.

Maritime archaeologists from Vrak – Museum of Wrecks helped to analyse and identify the ship.

“The ship is a unique example of a building technique for a kind of hybrid ship, a cross between a merchant ship and a warship, built during a breakthrough period between the older shipbuilding craft and the new one that would soon follow it. Details reveal that its builders were inspired by bigger warships like Mars and Elefanten but which we’ve never seen in wrecks here in Stockholm. It also represents a link between the large warships and the merchant vessels that we haven't known much about before. An amazing find!” says Jim Hansson, maritime archaeologist at the museum.

The ship was built in pine and had a total length of more than 30 metres. It was called the Samson and was commissioned by Duke Karl in 1598 and manufactured by Anders Pedersson in Enånger. It had up to 20 guns but was mainly used as a cargo ship.

“We’ve found everything from coins and pipes to ceramics and glass, and even a small ball of clay, possibly dropped by a child who had been playing in the wreck in the early 17th century,” says Philip Tonemar, an archaeologist at Arkeologikonsult.

However, a pine ship did not have a very long life span, and so the Samson disappears from the archives after 1607. When the ship ended its useful life, it was left as padding inside present-day Nybroviken, a small bay in central Stockholm. During the middle of the 17th century, the wreck and the shoreline were covered in large amounts of gravel. Over the centuries, different buildings were built on top of it.

Today, the property where the ship was found is owned by Sweden’s central bank fund, the Riksbank Jubilee Fund, which also funded the archaeological survey. The survey was commissioned by the Stockholm County Administrative Board when the foundation of the Riksbank Jubilee Fund property at Kungsträdgården was to be reinforced.

The wreck has been documented and photographed in 3D. A report on the survey will be published shortly.