Research & Discovery

Research holds the key to unlocking the past and turning unrecognizable artifacts into the story of the ships and people lost at sea.

This lead box, found on the Molasses Reef Wreck, was an enigma.

It turned out to be an ink well.

Ink well revealed.

How do archaeologists find the answers?

There are a limited number of avenues of research available to unlock the past. They include:
  archival documents
  ancient images, drawings, and photographs
  ancient techniques and ethnographic survivals
  ship and artifact reproductions and reconstructions
  experimental archaeology
  archaeological remains

Although archaeologists spend a lot of time in the office, libraries, museums, and archives.That is not the only place discoveries are made.

This crushed lead box was found on the Molasses Reef Wreck.
For many years it was an enigma. It turned out to be an ink well.


Where Secrets Are Revealed

versoMany discoveries are made in the laboratory and during the slow process of artifact analysis.

The Molasses Reef Wreck contained the largest single collection of 16th-century wrought-iron artillery ever discovered. The size of the collection gave us an unparalleled opportunity to research an important technological development.

Because some of the versos were badly deteriorated, we decided to cut one in half with a rock saw to learn more about how it was constructed. Such an approach is impossible in a museum setting. These guns were the subject of much conjecture about how they were made, but until our experiment no one knew for sure.

Ships of Discovery has collected a vast array of information on 16th and 17th-century ship construction, wrought-iron and bronze artillery, solid lead and composite shot, and personal small arms and weapons.

lacosaWe have delved into archival documents, researched ancient maps and models, and examined modern ship reconstructions. We have conducted basic conservation research and developed innovative conservation techniques. Whenever possible we have published our results and shared our findings with colleagues and the public.

To learn more about it all, do your own Research and Discover our secrets. Be sure to visit our Project pages.