How a-boat this! Huge 700-year-old shipwreck found at bottom of river Vistula
The underwater archaeologists in Vistula River north of Warsaw, Poland, discovered a centuries-old shipwreck described as “huge and rare.”
This historical boat was the discovery by a group of submarine explorers searching in the Vistula River north of Warsaw in Poland for a whopping 37 meters long (121 foot) and 6 meters wide (20 foot) and the article in Science in Poland reveals that the boat used to carry up to “100 tons of goods.”
Funded by the Ministry of Culture and Scientific Heritage with support from the Warsaw Institute of Archaeology, and the “massive” newly discovered boat is thought to have been a transport vessel operating between the 14th and 18th centuries.
Dr. Artur Brzóska is an underwater archaeologist and head of the research project from the Association of Archaeologists Jutra, and he believes it probably “transported grain to Gdańsk.”
Poor visibility and strong water currents were among the negative environmental challenges that stopped the divers from recovering any artifacts from the sunken ship.
But Brzóska pointed out that wrecks such as these are “very rare” and until this discovery, only two wrecks were previously known in this part of the river: a 16th century and 19th-century ship.
This new boat is a so-called “berlinka,” which was an elongated, shallow, barge-type craft designed for canal transportation, and while an article like this makes it all sound so simple, finding the rare wreck took what amounted to a major scientific operation.
Before the researchers discovered the “huge” boat they mounted hi-tech sonar equipment around a motorboat and selected a series of test sites with a view to diving at any interesting findings on the scans.
The system was tested on the Vistula River near Warsaw`s Old Town and the project required sailing around 400 kilometers (250 miles) along parallel survey lines scanning a 13-kilometer-long (8 miles) stretch of the river, covering nearly 500 hectares in all.
The scientists first found the decomposing remains of a World War II bridge sunk near Łomianki Dolne, and the geometry of its steel structure informed Brzóska’s team that it had been built by “German sappers.”
They also found parts of another ship driven into the bottom of the river and a fragment from the vessel pulled to the surface led Brzóska to the conclusion that it too might have been a cargo boat, similar to the huge one they discovered.
While the wrecks being discovered today are from the last 600 years, beneath them, deep in the silts of the riverbed, are the rotting remains of much more ancient vessels, as the Vistula basin was occupied in the 1st millennium BC by Iron Age Lusatian and Przeworsk cultures.
1st-century Roman authors called the region “Magna Germania” and in the 2nd century AD, Ptolemy described the Vistula River as the border between Germania and Sarmatia.
According to an article on Suwalszczyzna, the Vistula River used to be connected to the Dnieper River, and thence to the Black Sea via the Augustów Canal, one of the most ancient trade routes, the Amber Road, which connected Northern Europe with Asia, Greece, Egypt, and elsewhere.
Encyclopedia Britannica says that for hundreds of years the river was one of the main trade routes of ancient Poland and the Vistula estuary was settled by Slavs in the 7th and 8th centuries.
Moving through the canals of time, the magnificent if not ostentatious castles and fortresses that line the riverbanks all stand testimony to the wealth accumulated through the trade of salt, timber, and stone between the 10th and 13th centuries.
In the 16th century most of the grain exported from Poland left from the city of Gdańsk, and is located at the end of the Vistula, with its Baltic seaport trade connections, it became the wealthiest, most highly developed and connected of the Polish cities. It was this thriving Polish city that Dr. Artur Brzóska believes the newly discovered massive barge transported grain too, but the team is awaiting further results before drawing this conclusion.