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A Seventeenth-Century Northern European Merchant Shipwreck in Monte Cristi Bay, Dominican Republic

Jerome Lynn Hall
Dissertation: August 1996
Chair: Bass
Nautical Archaeology Program

Beginning in 1991 and continuing through 1994, the Pan-American Institute of Maritime Archaeology (PIMA), a nonprofit scientific and educational institution based in San Francisco, California, undertook the excavation of a seventeenth-century northern European merchant shipwreck in Monte Cristi Bay, Dominican Republic. Although excavation still continues, with tentative plans of completion in 1998, this document analyzes data collected from the 1991 and 1992 seasons.

Commonly referred to an "The Pipe Wreck," owing to the large consignment of clay tobacco smoking pipes carried as cargo, the remains of the vessel add a substantial corpus of information to our scant knowledge of seventeenth-century shipwrecks in the New World. The investigation of the extant hull and cargo was undertaken to test the hypothesis that the wreck represents a Dutch merchantman headed for a Dutch-American outpost in the New World. Preliminary results of the excavation and subsequent study seasons, h9owever, suggest that the vessel was English-built and sand sometime, most likely, between 1652 and 1656. Dendrochronological studies, clay pipe morphologies and their accompanying maker's marks, ceramic types, and couterstamped silver coins fit well into this temporal framework.

Historical and archaeological data suggest that the wreck represents an English merchant vessel bound for the northeastern seaboard of what is now the United States. The possibility exists, however, that it sailed in the service of the Dutch West India Company. Additional hypotheses examine the likelihood that the ship may have entered Monte Cristi Bay in search of salt, or perhaps to trade with the boucaniers that were prevalent along the northern coast of Hispaniola.

A major portion of the cargo appears to have been manufactured in Holland, and archaeological collections from contemporary sites suggest that many items were intended for the Native American trade in the Hudson River Valley.

The Monte Cristi shipwreck not only provides data for a period of New World seafaring represented by a surprising paucity of archaeological evidence, it also testifies to the importance of tobacco consumption and tobacco-related trade during the seventeenth-century.

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