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The Roosevelt Inlet shipwreck: identification, analysis, and historical context

Bridget Christine McVae
Thesis: August 2008
Chair: Crisman
Nautical Archaeology Program


Shipwrecks have a way of catching the imagination of both professionals and the general public. During the fall of 2004 a shipwreck was discovered in Delaware Bay near Lewes, Delaware. This vessel, believed to be British, was lost during the second half of the eighteenth century. Preliminary examination of the wreck site suggested that it was a merchant ship bound for the colonies. While wrecks dating to this period representing various countries have been found, no British merchant vessels bound for the colonies have been examined archaeologically. This project provided the opportunity to investigate a ship and its cargo in light of the historical events of the period. Analysis of artifacts recovered from the site provided important glimpses of colonial American consumer practices in the period leading up to the American Revolution. In light of the general colonial displeasure over increased Parliamentary restrictions, colonists adjusted their buying habits. Study of the artifact assemblage suggests British merchants were attempting to substitute non-British manufactured goods for some objects. This study also indicated that colonists were perhaps not idealistic in practice when it came to denying themselves consumer goods. Further excavation of this vessel, and the study of other inbound merchantmen, should help confirm the conclusions regarding British policy and its effect on pre-revolutionary consumer practices. Based upon evidence derived from a handful of artifacts, this study tentatively identified the vessel as the ship Severn, lost in 1774 off the coast of Delaware.

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