The Department of Mobility and Housing, through Ports of the Balearic Islands, has concluded the preventive underwater archaeological campaign carried out for ten days by a team of three underwater archaeologists. The team has worked on the study, delimitation and historical approach of the remains of a wreck located during the remodelling works of the port of Fornells. A task that has been carried out with the collaboration of Patrimonio del Consell de Menorca.
Characteristics of the ship
The preliminary study, carried out by archaeologists Xavier Aguelo and Bruno Parés, indicates that the remains of the wreck occupy an area of around 40 m². It is 13 metres long and its original beam would have been 3 metres, of which no more than 2 metres remain.
The ship is found sunk on its starboard side, which is preserved in its entire length and a little more than half of its width.
It is a vessel that would have been propelled by sixteen oars, since a total of eight ladders and ladder ladders have been found on the starboard side, elements that would have been used as support points for the oars. No elements have been found to indicate the possible use of an additional system with a sail. Together with the location of the position of the oars, it has also been possible to document the benches where the rowers would have been seated – two of them are still partially preserved in the area where the excavation has been carried out.
As the preliminary report indicates, in a first approximation it could be what is known as a lancha, which refers to the largest of the three smaller vessels that accompanied a boat of the line. The remains of the boat could be chronologically ascribed to a period between the beginning of the 18th century and the mid-19th century.
These vessels were used for loading and unloading goods and people from the large ships, which due to their draught were anchored in the centre of the harbour bays to the coast. They could also be used to assist ships in their approaches and manoeuvres within the harbours or anchorage areas.
The proximity of the wreck to the coast, in a geographical area where open sea storms have little or no effect, as well as the lack of ceramic remains or other elements that can be associated with the wreck, raises as the main hypothesis that it was a vessel that was abandoned after having suffered some kind of serious incident that did not allow it to be repaired, recovering all those materials that would still be considered useful.
Conservation in situ
The archaeologists’ report also determines that the remains of the wreck will not be affected by the work being carried out in the port of Fornells. Once the archaeological work has been completed, the remains will be covered with geotextile fabric and sand in order to preserve the wreck in the best conditions that will allow it to be preserved in situ.
The Historical Heritage Service of the Consell Insular de Menorca (Menorca Island Council) has been monitoring this discovery. The vice-president and councillor of Culture of the institution, Miquel Àngel Maria, stresses the unfeasibility of recovering the ship, as it would be a technically very complex operation with a very high economic cost. In these cases, as the archaeologists have determined, the best option is the protection of the underwater asset in situ, the graphic documentation and the study of the wreck for its knowledge and protection.
After this first action, a study of the naval architecture is planned, to be carried out by Marcel Pujol, a doctor in history and a specialist in medieval and modern naval architecture, using the excavated remains of the wreck.