Report 11 - Pass Cavallo project (Page currently down)
Throughout each year, the Conservation Research Laboratory conserves material from a number of different archaeological projects. The purpose of these CRL reports is to showcase the conservation procedures used to treat some of the more interesting archaeological material. The reconstruction of the Belle's hull is presented in this report. The Belle, one of the ships of French explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur (Lord) de La Salle, was lost in Matagorda Bay, Texas in 1686. It was excavated by the Texas Historical Commission.
The excavation of the Belle by the Texas Historical Commission in 1996/97 was one of the most innovative and spectacular archaeological excavations of the decade. The THC took an underwater site and made it a land (more or less) excavation by constructing a cofferdam around the ship and pumping out the water. The finds on this fully loaded barque longue (frigate) belonging to the famous French explorer La Salle were nothing less than amazing. There is a massive array and quanity of material.
The single largest artifact is the remains of the ship herself. It is estimated that approximately one-third of the ship survived. The remains of the ship were dissassembled in the field, and some 764 components (keel, keelson, frames, ceiling planking, mast step, pump box, outer planking, etc.) were sent to the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University for conservation. Because of the importance of this shipwreck, we are making equally innovating approaches in the conservation of the hull.
The complete conservation of the hull is being documented on this web site. It is proceeding in several stages: