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Citation information: Filipe Castro, "The Cais do Sodré Ship",, last updated in February 2008.


3. Stern heels, or keel knees (couces)



Scheme of a Portuguese nau keel from the Livro náutico (Alex Hazlett).

As kinks in structures tend to concentrate stresses some shipbuilding traditions emphasized the reinforcements of the ship's weaker points. João Baptista Lavanha is the author that better explains the design of the 'couces' that connect the keel to the posts.

To my knowledge, all archaeological parallels to these typical Iberian features are northern - the cog's 'hooks' for instance - and these 'couces' make a strong case for a mix origin of the Iberian oceangoing ships, which look like they were conceived as Mediterranean vessels and reinforced as northern craft.

'Couce de Popa'

'Couce de Proa'

A number of Iberian shipwrecks have been found with these 'couces,' always with different configurations and differing in many details.



A few archaeological examples of stern heels:



Corpo Santo

Portugal. Probably Portuguese.


C14 - Late 14th century

Stratigraphy - before 1585 




 Aveiro A

Portugal. Probably Portuguese.


C14 - Mid 15th century;

Artifact assemblage - Late 15th c.



Studland Bay

UK. Spanish.

Date: Early 16th



San Esteban

Texas. Spanish.

Date: 1554



San Juan

Canada. Spanish.

Date: 1565 






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Last Updated: 10/14/08