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An Intact Wooden Chest from the 1686 Wreck of La Belle Michael C. West, M.A., Research Associate, Conservation Research Laboratory, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Background Other Finds: Trade Items (knives, glass beads, hawk’s bells, brass Jesuit rings) Weaponry (polearms, muskets, swords) Navigational Tools (nocturnal, dividers, sounding leads)
Dimensions: 25.5 inches long 13 inches wide 13.5 inches tall Weight: 300+ pounds The Chest
Thesis Research Questions • Who did the chest belong to? • Was the chest locked? Private or public? • Why is there such an eclectic group of items? • Why was this chest on the ship when it sank?
Preliminary Work • Cleaning • Orientation • Hardware • Sideboards
Chest Discoveries • X-rays • Fasteners • Hinges • Lock • Orientation
Lead • Sounding Weight • Counterweight? • Line Weight • Musket Ball • Hand Pump Valve Piece? Sieve?
The Beauty of the Brass Thimble Fragment Dividers • Scabbard Chape • Sword Hilt Guard • Diamond-shaped Washer on Brewer’s Gimlet Sword Hilt Knuckle Bow
Iron Preservation II Think of getting a cast on a broken bone!
Augers One complete auger with wooden handle, + five additional iron bits wrapped together with twine
Tinderbox • Very poor condition • Made of tin • Circular, about 12 cm (5 inches) across and 4.5 cm (1 ¾ inches) high • Five compartments inside • One small circular compartment in center, about 2 cm across • Four other chambers created by tin walls radiating away from this center compartment at ninety degree angles • Lead-based solder for securing compartment walls to rest of box
Pewter Fork - “M CARDIN” & “FIN” 1691: Michel Cardin becomes one of three pewter tax officials in La Rochelle 1707: Cardin dies and his wife Elizabeth takes over his authority as tax official
Ownership • Cooper – cooper’s axe, cooper’s adze, 2 cooper’s draw knives, brewer’s gimlet, cold chisel, cooper’s heading saw • Carpenter – square, mortising chisel, 2 adzes, hatchet, 2 gouges, gimlet, draw knife, augers • Ship’s Pilot – sounding lead, fishing spear, net weight, dividers, possible gaff
Ownership • Livestock Tender? Soldier? Farmer? One of the elite? (Sword, 3 padlocks, possible gate pull, thimble, lead shot, 4 drumsticks, fork…) • Maybe a kleptomaniac! • Initials: “WF” from gimlet & “IO”? “JO”? “OI”? “OJ”? (etc) from fork = Differing origins!
A Possible History • La Rochelle l’Aimable • L’Aimable Camp constructed of l’Aimable wood • Camp La Belle • La Belle Staging Area • Staging Area Permanent Settlement -- La Salle reverses orders! Permanent Settlement Back to Belle, one last time…