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The Zeebrugge Shipwreck

A forgotten early sixteenth-century merchantman discovered off the Belgian coast

Hendrik Lettany
Publication Year:
118 pages, Illustrated throughout in colour and black and white. 6 tables (3 in colour), 102 figures (84 in colour)
BAR number:


In the 1990s, large numbers of mainly metal objects were discovered off the Belgian coast near the port of Zeebrugge, indicating the location of an early modern wreck-site. Though at this time no appropriate legislation in regard to such a procedure existed in Belgium, the discoverer of the finds nonetheless initiated the excavation and study of this underwater site with a team of professional divers and amateur archaeologists. Unfortunately, the project was never finalised and the data related to the excavation ended up unpublished and dispersed among several members of the excavation team. Now, more than 25 years later, the author of this book aims to collect, analyse, and reassess the initial data related to the excavation, in order to propose a substantiated interpretation of this forgotten site. In order to understand the available data, Hendrik Lettany first explores the circumstances of the excavation. The resulting data, together with the actual archaeological collection from the excavation, are then carefully discussed and interpreted.

Hendrik Lettany graduated in Art History and Archaeology from the Free University of Brussels and later specialised in Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southern Denmark. Since then, he has participated in several international maritime archaeological projects. His main research interests are maritime trade in the early modern period and ship timber analysis.

‘… Lettany does not only shed light on the archaeological evidence but reveals an insightful view of the very beginning of underwater archaeology in Belgium before a legal framework for underwater heritage existed… His systematic approach is exemplary and makes it easy to access the information and to follow the author’s train of thought… Lettany’s book is an important and necessary contribution to Late Medieval and Early Modern archaeology, as well as a documentation of the legal developments in the field of underwater heritage protection.’ M. Belasus, Journal of Maritime Archaeology, 2019

‘The bulk of the book,…, is given over to Lettany’s exemplary and straightforward catalogue of the surviving finds, with full analytical study and discussion. It is a remarkable assemblage, largely of metal objects…Through his multi-disciplinary detective work Rik Lettany has recovered much for posterity that would otherwise have been lost, and in the process has provided an illuminating glimpse into the darker side of our discipline…As a final accolade, mention must be made of the book’s excellent standard of production and editing…The present volume comprises robust binding, good-quality paper which complements the extensive use of colour, attractive layout and design, and tight editing. Congratulations to both author and publisher.’ Colin Martin, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 48.1.2019

‘The author elegantly combines archival research with oral history, GIS and artefact analysis: the combination is very interesting and leads to new insights.’ Dr Marnix Pieters, Flanders Heritage Agency

Table of Contents (S2898_9781407316048_ToC.pdf, 150 Kb) [Download]

Preface and Introduction (S2898_9781407316048_Preface_Introduction.pdf, 3,247 Kb) [Download]