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A Comparative Analysis of Early Medieval Shipwrecks from the Southern Shores of the Baltic Sea

George Indruszewski
Thesis: May 1996
Chair: van Doorninck
Nautical Archaeology

Most shipwrecks discovered on the southern shore of the Baltic have been attributed a Scandinavian or Germanic origin. However, the archaeological data corroborated inthe concise comparative anlysis reveal the commonness of technical details among these shipwrecks which points to the existence of a regional shipbuilding tradition in this area. The technical differences between Scandinavian shipwrecks and Southern Baltic shipwrecks further strengthen the idea of a regional shipbuilding tradition developed in the Early Middle Age on the southern shores of the Baltic Sea. The Scandinavian archaeological material outlines that a seemingly reciprocal exchange took place between Scandinavian shipbuilding on one hand and Southern Baltic shipbuilding on the other. The wrecks representing the latter tradition seem to fulfill the main characteristics attributed to the Wendish ships in historical sources. Although scarce, these sources are conducive in outlining the role of Slavic naval and commercial seafaring in the Baltic. This compatibility between historical sources and archaeological evidence indicates that the shipwrecks under discussion ought to be regarded as products of a Slavic shipbuilding tradition that was manifested in its full potential during the 11th and the 12th centuries. The final conclusions stress the main characteristics of Slavic vessels, while further introspections are made into the difficult problems related to the origin and evolution of the Slavic/Wendish shipbuilding tradition. An attempt to difine the shipwrecks from a chronological point of view reveals the difficulties of such a task, partially caused by the improper or uncertain dating of the archaeological material. The final chapter calls for further research pertaining to the understanding the interactive mechanisms between the maritime societies of the Baltic Sea.

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