The Newport Ship, a fifteenth-century sailing vessel discovered ten years by archaeologists in Wales, may have come from the Basque country in Spain.
Research conducted by dendrochronologists Nigel Nayling from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Josué Susperregi from the Arkeolan Foundation in Spain, on the hull timbers of medieval ship found in Newport, have been matched against the reference chronology built for the Basque Country. This includes new data from medieval buildings in the Araba and Navarra territories.
“The mystery of the origins of the Newport Ship, the remains of the a remarkably well-preserved medieval ship may at last have been solved,” Nigel Nayling explains. “Artefacts found at the time of the discovery hinted at Iberian connections but recent advances in dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) have provided the first scientific evidence.
“The results strongly suggest that the ship was originally built in the Basque Country where wooden shipbuilding has a long tradition. A Basque origin for the ship has been suspected for some time and collaboration between the scientists was first suggested in 2006 by Xabier Agote, president of the Albaola Society which promotes research into Basque maritime heritage. Initial attempts to dat the ship were unsuccessful and the new results have only been possible due to research programmes sampling both the ship itself and more historic buildings that have allowed extension and improvement of the medieval section of the Basque chronology.”
The new findings will encourage closer co-operation between archaeologists, historians and scientists in Wales and the Basque Country as research continues, and conservation of the ship proceeds in advance of its eventual display in a new museum.
Mirjam Plantinga, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David adds, “Nigel Nayling has been instrumental in the excavation, documentation and analysis of the ship. This is a major new finding and the University is proud to have been associated with this internationally important project since its discovery ten years ago.”
Archaeologists had discovered the remains of the ship in June 2002 buried along the west bank of the River Usk in the city centre of Newport. The ship was originally around 80 feet (24 metres) long and could have sailed around the coasts of Europe. Some evidence indicates that a badly damaged ship was being repaired in Newport in 1469 and that it may have been owned by the Earl of Warwick.
Debbie Wilcox, a councillor at Newport City Council, says “The Ship provides an excellent opportunity to tell the story of medieval Newport and its history as an international maritime town long before its development as an industrial port. The latest information about the Newport Ship provides a useful insight into its origins and it appears that one of the mysteries of its history may have been solved. It also reinforces the international significance of the Ship and how it should be viewed as a find of national importance.”
Efforts are continuing to preserve the ship and have it on display in a museum in Newport.
Source: University of Wales Trinity St David