Archeologists in Estonia made an exciting discovery this year while excavating an old shipwreck site near the historic port of Tallinn. In 2022, well-preserved remains of a medieval ship were found buried on Lootsi Street, not far from the old city walls.

The excavation was led by Muinasprojekt OÜ, an Estonian archaeology company. Once uncovered, the large wooden ship pieces were carefully transported to the Estonian Maritime Museum for further study.

Researchers are now carefully cleaning and examining the ship remains. The first step involves removing sand and debris from the hull without damaging any artifacts. Experts are also monitoring humidity levels to slowly dry the wet wood and prevent mold growth.

Detailed measurements, photos, and samples are being taken to learn more about how the ship was constructed. Laboratory analysis of the samples will help date exactly when the ship was built.

Dendrochronology, the study of tree ring patterns, has already revealed that the wood used for the ship was cut down around 1360. So this discovery gives us a rare glimpse into shipbuilding during the late medieval period in Estonia.

As the excavation and cleaning continue, archaeologists have found some exciting artifacts buried in the ship, including tools, leather shoes, and weapons.

But the most surprising finds so far are remarkably well-preserved remains of two ship rats and what is believed to be the oldest dry compass ever discovered in Europe. The dry compass was invented around 1300 and contains a magnetized needle that floats freely inside a glass-covered box imprinted with a compass rose diagram.

Sailors would line up the compass with the ship’s keel so the rotating diagram always showed which direction the bow was pointing, even as the ship changed course.

This rare shipwreck discovery in Estonia’s capital city is providing historians with valuable clues about life at sea over 600 years ago. Future study may reveal even more secrets from this well-preserved piece of maritime history.


Estonian Maritime Museum

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