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Portuguese Naus / Iberian Ships / NADL / Italian Seafaring / Treatises / Puerto Rico / Small Craft / Portugal / Other

Director: Filipe Vieira de Castro, Frederick R. Mayer Faculty Professor II of Nautical Archaeology

Nautical Archaeology Program, 105 Anthropology Building, College Station, TX 77843-4352, USA. Telephone: (979) 845-6220. Fax: (979) 845-4070. Email: fvcastro@tamu.edu

The ShipLab was created by J. Richard Steffy in 1976 and today is one of the laboratories of the Centre for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation of the Anthropology Department at Texas A&M University. Its mission is to acquire and disseminate knowledge about shipbuilding through time. As a classroom its main objective is to provide an effective learning environment. In other words, as Carl Sagan wrote, education is not a narrow path to a profession: "At the university of Chicago I was lucky enough to go through a general education program devised by Robert M. Hutchins, where science was presented as an integral part of the gorgeous tapestry of human knowledge. It was considered unthinkable for an aspiring physicist not to know Plato, Aristotle, Bach, Shakespeare, Gibbon, Malinowski, and Freud - among many others." Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, New York: Balantine Books, 1997:xiv-xv.

As research laboratory its objective is to facilitate investigation, seek public and private research funds, and recruit and retain quality students for its projects. As an outreach institution it aims at providing information, education, and guidance about the discipline of nautical archaeology and the importance of the world's submerged cultural heritage, perhaps more than ever threatened by treasure hunting.

The Pepper Wreck Project

A Portuguese Indiaman sunk at the mouth of the Tagus River in September 1606, on its way back from Cochin, India.

Video production: D&D Audiovisuais SA, for the Portuguese Pavillion at Expo'98, Lisbon, Portugal.

The Pepper Wreck was found on the Tagus River mouth, Lisbon, Portugal, in 1993, during an archaeological survey promoted by the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia, directed by Francisco Alves. From 1996 to 1998 it was excavated by the Instituto Português de Arqueologia / Centro Nacional de Arqueologia Náutica e Subaquática as part of the program of the Portuguese Pavilion at the 1998 World Exhibition EXPO'98. In 1999 and 2000 the remains of its hull were excavated by the Centro Nacional de Arqueologia Náutica e Subaquática, with the support of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology / Texas A&M University.

Its excavation yielded a large collection of artifacts dated from the late 16th and early 17th centuries, and lead to the tentative identification of this shipwreck as the nau Nossa Senhora dos Mártires, wrecked on September 15 1606 on its way back from Cochin, India.

In cooperation with the Secção Autónoma de Engenharia Naval at the Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisbon, Portugal, the Departments of Computer Science and Visualization Sciences at Texas A&M University, and Faculdade de Letras of Lisbon University, we are reconstructing the ship's shape, rigging, interior space, structure, and sailing capabilities. We expect our study to provide a better understanding of these formidable vessels, which carried over 400 people from Lisbon to India every year.

Portuguese Indiamen on the Web:

Visit the website Nau Portugal, about the ongoing experimental archaeology project developed by the Portuguese Centro de Engenharia e Tecnologia Naval at Instituto Superior Técnico. Watch hard science @ IST: launching the N.S. Mártires model on National TV. And you may want to watch not-so-hard science on Youtube: lauching of nau Portugal in 1940...

C.A.V.E.: Department of Visualization Sciences @ Texas A&M - Audrey Wells' virtual reality model of a India nau.

The Cais do Sodré Project:

In cooperation with IGESPAR/DANS, CMAC is working on the organization and publication of the primary data of a shipwreck found in 1995 during the excavation of a new subway station at Cais do Sodré, in Lisbon, Portugal, where is now the end of line "Caravela."

This interesting site was excavated by the late Paulo Jorge Rodrigues, whose untimely death interrupted the study and publication.

A preliminary report is almost finished and a paper summarizing the primary data is in preparation. We expect to review the data with new informatic tools, correct eventual problems and propose an interpretation of this site.

Developed in cooperation with Mauro Bondioli and Mariangela Nicolardi, this project is a homage to Paulo Jorge Rodrigues.

The Nautical Archaeology of Puerto Rico:

Puerto Rico is located on the northeast corner of the Caribbean Basin, around coordinates N 18° 15" and W 066° 30'.

The smallest of the Greater Antilles, archaeological evidence suggests that the island's first inhabitants arrived between the years 7,000 and 4,000 BCE. Spanish colonization of Puerto Rico began in 1509, under the direction of lieutenant Juan Ponce de León.

The strategic location of Puerto Rico was praised since the early 16th century by both friends and enemies of Spain. This
project intends to study country's history through its shipwrecks.

Other Ongoing Projects:


CMAC is working on the iconography of the ships of the European expansion of the 16th Century.

Iberian Ships:

One of the ShipLAB main interests is the study of Iberian Shipbuilding in the period of the European expansion.

CMAC News & Reports:

No. 1 (April 09).

No. 2 (April 10).

Shipbuilding c. 1570:

CMAC is working on the study, for publication, of two texts on shipbuilding, by Nicolo Sagri and Fernando Oliveira, both dating to c. 1570.

Dutch Shipbuilding in the Dutch Golden Age:

Texas A&M University Press is working on the publication of an English version of Ab Hoving and G.A. de Weerdt's seminal work, Nicolaes Witsens scheeps-bouw-konst open gestelt.

Nautical Archaeology Digital Library:

Italian Shipbuilding in the Renaissace:

Another main interest of the ShipLAB is the study of Italian Ships of the Renaissance, which have influenced shipbuilding allover Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries.

A number of shipbuilding treatises from this period have survived and are being studied at the ShipLAB.

The Treasure Hunter's Corner:

Treasure hunters are always shallow, no matter how low they sink.

1. About treasure hunting;

2. The difference between antiquarians and archaeologists.

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Last Updated: 10/14/09