The Gresham Ship Project. A 16th-Century Merchantman Wrecked in the Princes Channel, Thames Estuary Volume I: Excavation and Hull Studies

As I write this, the proposed recovery of a unique Second World War German bomber from the Goodwin Sands is being jeopardised by a run of bad weather; despite all the technical resources being available, the cost of repeated delays is clearly causing concern. The Goodwin Sands are just round the corner, in a sense, from the Princes Channel in the outer Thames Estuary and the planned recovery of the bomber is a reminder both of the extraordinary discoveries that can still be made in this part of the world and of the enormous difficulties of working in that environment. The Princes Channel Wreck was not too exacting as an exercise in underwater archaeology itself; the site was not especially deep for diving and it comprised a range of material such as timber structure, concretions, larger artefacts and small finds that have been found on numerous other sites. The circumstances of the site made all the difference, however. On the one hand the low visibility, strong tides, intemperate weather and distance from port added complexity and disruption; on the other, this was development-led work for a client whose capacity to provide support was sympathetic, but not limitless at a time when there were few comparable investigations from which to borrow.
The result was that the recovery and recording of the Princes Channel Wreck was necessarily innovative in the way in which techniques were used and combined, seeking to obtain the best possible results within the constraints that applied. The experience fed directly into other development-led work in the Thames, recently published as London Gateway: Maritime Archaeology in the Thames Estuary, and into research initiatives such as projects funded by the Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund. For these reasons, the investigations of the Princes Channel Wreck have an important place in the history of maritime archaeology in the UK. Nonetheless, evaluation of the success of the investigations in 2003–2004 depends upon what happened subsequently: on the conservation, understanding and public access that the initial work helped – it is to be hoped – rather than hindered. It is important to see, therefore, this project in its entirety, including the current publication – and the analyses it presents – as an inherent and essential component of the whole endeavour. All the people who have contributed to and supported this publication are to be congratulated for bringing it to press, for adding in such a major way to the growing body of archaeological literature that is arising from marine development. Working with the sea is never easy, but the archaeological rewards are so very worthwhile.
Jens Auer and Thijs J. Maarleveld with contributions by Massimiliano Ditta, Antony Firth, Nigel Nayling, Delia Ní Chíobháin, Christian Thomsen, and Cate Wagstaffe
BAR British Series 602, 2014 Nautical Archaelogy Society NAS Monograph Series No. 4 Series editor Gerald Grainge

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