Exotic Spices Found on Sunken 15th Century Norwegian Ship New Scientist

Swedish underwater archaeologists unearth Norwegian shipwreck from 15th centuryThe century produced a special discovery: a colorful collection of plant remains, including various exotic spices such as saffron and cloves. For some of these herbs, this is the first concrete evidence of their use in medieval northern Europe.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden discovered a colorful collection of plant remains in the wreckage of an important warship. Gripshunds From King Hans of Denmark and Norway, it was sunk in 1495. The wreck was discovered in the 1960s, but archaeologists have found only very well-preserved plants during recent research. Published Results In the journal PLOS ONE.

Inside the ship and on the seabed around it, researchers found remains of plants that were only available to the wealthy at the time. They mainly found spices, including exotic spices from regions as far away as Scandinavia, such as saffron, black pepper and cloves. They also found remains of various foods served as snacks, such as nuts, berries and raisins.

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Royal diet

The discovery is important, as otherwise well-preserved exotic species have never been found in medieval excavations. For some herbs, this is the first concrete evidence of their use in northern Europe.

This is the first time an archaeological find has revealed the royal diet of the Middle Ages. Archaeologists can look at other items found in the same room and use the information to paint a picture of how the elite ate in late medieval northern Europe.

Such archaeological discoveries are not often made on land. A combination of low salt content and low temperatures in the Baltic Sea has ensured that wood survives and algae thrives. As a result, the oxygen content in the water decreases, and an environment is created that can better preserve organic matter.

A display of power

The reason for the ship’s last voyage gives the discovery a special edge. King Hans of Denmark and Norway dreamed of a united Scandinavian kingdom. So, in June 1495, he sailed to Sweden to convince the Swedish leader, Sten Stur the Elder, to hand over control of Sweden. Upon arrival, the ship is mysteriously hit by an explosion, after which it sinks into a sea of ​​flames.

The king probably took botanical luxuries with him to show the Swedish ruler how prosperous he was and thus convince him to hand over his power. Previous archaeological excavations have already found cannons, small arms, coins and works of art, all of which attest to his power.

Business networks

Maritime Archaeologist Martin Manders Leiden University confirms that this is a unique discovery. ‘For example, peppercorns or nutmeg can sometimes be found on shipwrecks from the 17th century. But foreign trade networks were already much more developed than in the Middle Ages. So it’s very special that all these food items were found together, and then on a ship from the Middle Ages.

He adds that it would be interesting to put these results in a larger context. ‘For example, you can examine the role other European aristocrats played in the trade by looking at how often these rare spices of the time were available in other parts of Europe. You know how special this particular find is.

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