Archaeologists uncover part of 16th-century ship in central Stockholm

A shipwreck dating back to the 1500s has been found in a courtyard in central Stockholm.

Archaeologists uncover part of 16th-century ship in central Stockholm
The area east of Kungsträdgården was water-filled for centuries, making it a prime area for archaeological discoveries. Photo: Staffan Löwstedt / SvD / TT

Over the past year, work has been going on in the Kungsträdgården area to strengthen the foundations of a building belonging to the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ).

Archaeologists routinely check this kind of work, in case any archaeologically important discoveries might be made. 

And in this case, that's exactly what happened. Under the courtyard, parts of an old wooden hull were found, which were then analysed by marine archaeologists.

The parts are thought to have come from a ship called Samson, which was commissioned by Charles IX of Sweden in the late 1500s, and the rings on the wood date the parts back to the 1590s.

“A find from this transition period between the old and new era of shipbuilding is very unusual. There are actually no other direct examples,” said Philip Tonemar, an archaeologist who was asked to carry out the survey by the municipality. 

“It's fantastically fun to make a discovery like this. This will never happen to me again,” he added.

The fact the ship was built entirely in pine, with detailed design work, makes it especially unusual.

Samson was over 30 meters long, and is mentioned briefly in records about its construction and journeys, but disappears from the archives after 1607.

“When the ship was abandoned in the early 1600s, it was probably stripped of material, chopped up and left on the shore,” said Tonemar. “We have found rubbish from residents in the area that was thrown directly over the ship.”

These finds include coins, glass, ceramics, and a small clay ball that may have been a child's toy. 

The area east of Kungsträdgården was water-filled well into modern times, making it a prime area for such discoveries. 

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