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Modeling la Belle: A Reconstruction of a Seventeenth-Century Light Frigate

Glenn P. Grieco
Thesis: May 2003
Chair: Hamilton

This thesis describes the construction of two models of La Belle, a light frigate constructed in France during the late seventeenth century. The archaeological remains of La Belle are important as a unique example of a little understood vessel type and as an informative example of several construction techniques that were in use in the French shipyards at the end of the seventeenth century.

Using data recorded during the excavation and conservation of the original ship's timbers, historical documents, and contemporary drawings and models as guides, various configurations of La Belle's structure were created to determine her probable appearance. Whenever possible, the original materials and construction techniques were closely approximated to determine their effect on the overall appearance of the ship. Many of the artifacts excavated from the original vessel were reproduced in scale and incorporated into the model to determine their influence on the layout of the ship's structure.

The resulting model provides not only a picture of a specific ship type, but also, a glimpse into the technologies that existed at the time La Belle was constructed. The vessel may have been small in comparison to other naval vessels of the 17th century, but her contributions to our knowledge of shipbuilding and ship design are immense.

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