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The Provenance of the Stone Ballast from the Molasses Reef Wreck

William Lamb
Thesis: May 1988
Chair: Bass
Nautical Archaeology Program


The stone ballast from an early sixteenth century shipwreck was analyzed for evidence of its origin and voyage history. Located in the Turks and Caicos Islands, British West Indies, the Molasses Reef Wreck was excavated by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology from 1981 to 1986. The ballast pile was systematically sampled. Cross sections through the mound were mapped in situ. Nearly 1200 recovered stone samples were analyzed with petrography, paleontology, geochemistry, electron microscopy and geochronology. Seven major rock groups were identified: a collection of undifferentiated quartzite cobbles, a limestone of Miocene age, a calc-schist suite, a high alumina basalt of Eocene age, an alkaline olivine basalt of Pleistocene age, a disparate group of sandstones and a limestone of Late Visean age. Lisbon, Portugal is believed to be source for several of the lithologies. Computer modeling of the ballast mound was employed to discern the spatial relationships that existed in the recorded stratigraphy.

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