Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword

Patricia A. Mercado-Allinger

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pp. ix-x

In late July of 1995, three words—“We found it!”—resounded repeatedly in the offices of the Texas Historical Commission (THC). The excitement derived from the fact that the hunt for the wreck of La Belle had finally resulted in a positive identification. The ship was one of the vessels damaged and lost to a winter storm in 1686 during the expedition led by Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. ...

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Preface

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pp. xi-xii

This publication represents the technical report on the excavation of the shipwreck of La Belle (41MG86). The fieldwork to recover the wreck took place from the summer of 1996 to the spring of 1997 in Matagorda Bay, Texas. It has taken two decades to complete this volume, in large part due to the complexity of the material culture and the massive and time-consuming artifact conservation effort, ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xx

A project as complex as the excavation of La Belle required the assistance of literally hundreds of individuals, corporations, foundations, and other organizations who contributed to the ultimate success of the endeavor. This acknowledgment thanks many who were involved. For those we are not able to mention by name due to limited space, we offer our sincere thanks for your expert help, ...

Part I: Introduction

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1. Background

James E. Bruseth

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pp. 3-25

In July 1995, archaeologists with the Texas Historical Commission (THC) discovered a bronze cannon entombed in a shipwreck in Matagorda Bay, Texas (Figure 1.1). For 20 years, the archaeological team had been searching for the wreck of La Belle, a ship lost in 1686 by the French explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (Arnold 1996a). ...

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2. Archival Research

John De Bry

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pp. 26-44

Prior to the discovery of La Belle, much of what was known of La Salle’s 1684 expedition to establish a French colony at the mouth of the Mississippi was the result of archival research. In particular, our knowledge of La Salle and his exploits in the Americas has benefited from the work of many historians, including Pierre Margry, Francis Parkman, Jean Delanglez, Isaac Cox, Charles Hackett, William Dunn, ...

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3. Excavation inside a Cofferdam

Layne Hedrick, Amy Mitchell-Cook, James E. Bruseth

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pp. 45-59

The discovery of La Belle (Arnold 1996a) presented archaeologists with a series of logistical challenges for excavating the intact lower hull and cargo of a seventeenth-century shipwreck in the shallow and low-visibility waters of Matagorda Bay. The Texas Historical Commission (THC), after consideration of the technical difficulties of the situation, decided to embark on an seven-month, ...

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4. Conservation

Donny L. Hamilton, Helen Dewolf, Peter D. Fix

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pp. 60-80

In the summer of 1995, the news spread among the archaeological community in Texas that La Salle’s ship, La Belle, had been found. Within weeks, an array of artifacts was recovered and with great fanfare, a heavily encrusted bronze gun was raised. These artifacts were taken to Ships of Discovery at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History for conservation. ...

Part II: Ship Design, Organization, and Hardware

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5. Hull Analysis

Toni L. Carrell

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pp. 83-130

The analysis of La Belle’s hull provided a rare opportunity to investigate the craftsmanship of the seventeenth-century shipwright at a time of transition in shipbuilding techniques. Not only is the hull unusual for its degree of preservation, but the ship, a barque longue, is a previously unstudied type. This combination of good preservation and an archaeologically undocumented type furnished an excellent opportunity for a comprehensive hull study. ...

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6. Capturing the Curve: Underlying Concepts in the Design of the Hull

Taras Pevny

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pp. 131-202

La Belle, measuring less than 20 m on deck and armed with only six 4-pounder cannons and eight swivel guns, would not have been considered a very significant naval vessel in the French Navy of the 1680s. In fact, it is among the smallest vessels listed in the surviving French naval records of that decade (Marine Royale 1688a). However, its small size does not diminish its archaeological value. ...

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7. Rigging

Catharine Inbody Corder

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pp. 203-238

Understanding the rigging elements found on La Belle presents several unique challenges. Unlike eighteenth-century rigging, which has been the subject of much research and is well represented by primary documents, seventeenth-century rigging is not as well defined by primary sources or in secondary research. ...

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8. Cordage

Jennifer R. McCaskill

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pp. 239-254

When La Belle was driven aground by a storm in 1686 it was carrying a large amount of rope that was used for a variety of purposes. Although La Belle was a small ship, the amount of cordage needed to outfit it for an Atlantic voyage would have been extensive, as much as 6 to 8 km (Glenn Grieco, personal communication 2008). Besides rigging and anchor cables, ...

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9. Modeling the Vessel

Glenn Grieco

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pp. 255-279

The last quarter of the seventeenth century was a transitional period in shipbuilding. Many of the design and construction techniques that were used during the next three centuries were developed at this time. Significantly, France was at the forefront of the shipbuilding industry; its shipyards and naval architects were considered the best in the world and eventually they would have a tremendous influence ...

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10. Galley and Shipboard Diet

Eric D. Ray

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pp. 280-290

During La Belle’s excavation, archaeologists documented brick scatters in the main and aft holds, as well as several brick fragments outside the ship. The brick scatters in the hold areas did not appear to be cargo and showed signs of use as heating surfaces. While firebricks are usually associated with galleys and food preparation on ships, ...

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11. Stowage and Packing Containers

Brad Loewen

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pp. 291-331

During excavation of La Belle, an extensive deposit of packing containers was found to overlay the ship’s surviving hull structure. In all, 86 casks and 11 boxes were recovered. It was a privilege to be able to study the large, well-preserved La Belle collection, following pioneering studies of other researchers (Bradley 1983; Hulst 1987; Litwin 1980; Ross 1980; Shackelford 1988). ...

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12. Navigational and Related Instruments

Gregory D. Cook, Lois A. Swanick

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pp. 332-350

Nineteen artifacts make up one of the smallest and most specialized categories in the assemblage recovered from La Belle: the instruments and tools used for navigating the vessel at sea. Navigational artifacts recovered from La Belle include a nocturnal, two sounding leads, 12 dividers, a compass gimbal, elements of a cross-staff , and fragments of at least three different sandglasses or hourglasses. ...

Part III: Arms

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13 Artillery

Donald H. Keith

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pp. 353-372

La Belle was one of three armed vessels in La Salle’s expedition to found a colony on the Mississippi River. The records in the French archives, and firsthand accounts by expedition members such as Henri Joutel and Dionicio Thomas, agree that La Belle was armed with six 4-pound cannons (Astina 1685:6; Joutel 1998:49). Thomas, who defected from La Salle’s expedition after crossing the Atlantic, ...

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14. Cannon Carriage

Steven D. Hoyt

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pp. 373-384

Although the vast majority of artifacts recovered during the excavation of La Belle were found within the hull, a few significant items were buried in the surrounding sediments. Among these items is a wooden cannon carriage discovered in early October 1996. During the next month, the carriage was recorded and removed from the sediments. ...

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15. Petards

Donald H. Keith, Eric D. Ray

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pp. 385-391

Atop the ceiling planking in units N2019/E2008 and N2019/E2009 (Figure 15.1) under a short half-deck, excavators found six cup-shaped, cast-iron vessels about 28 cm in height. All but one showed evidence of a vent hole ca. 5 cm above the base. The vessels were found together with sundry ship’s stores, primarily blocks and rope. ...

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16. Firepots

Eric D. Ray, Julia Stryker

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pp. 392-410

Nine explosive weapons, matching historical descriptions of fi repots (pots-à-feu), were found packed in La Belle’s stern. Several were intact, allowing detailed examination of these gunpowder-filled ceramic pots containing an iron grenade. While there are many examples of grenades from archaeological sites, La Belle’s explosive weapons are rare archaeological examples of the combination of an iron grenade inside a ceramic firepot. ...

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17. Small Arms

Amy A. Borgens, Jay C. Blaine

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pp. 411-445

At the time of its loss in the winter of 1686, La Belle was carrying among its cargo an invaluable commodity without which success in the New World might not be secured: the flintlock firearm. The weapons from La Belle are only a small portion of the firearms provided for the expedition, which were listed as “400 namely, 50 from the port and 350 from the storehouse” (Louis XIV 1877a:379). ...

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18. Gunflints

Jeffrey J. Durst

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pp. 446-458

When La Belle wrecked, it took with it more than 300 gunflints that had been packed away in anticipation of La Salle’s move from the encampment on Garcitas Creek to the mouth of the Mississippi River. These gunflints, found among the remaining cargo of La Belle, both within and outside of the hull, were integral to La Salle’s plan to successfully establish himself and his colony on the Mississippi. ...

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19. Iron and Lead Shot

Donald H. Keith

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pp. 459-479

According to the “Memorandum from the King” of supplies granted for La Salle’s 1684 expedition, the colony was to be provided with 2,400 cannonballs, the modern equivalent of 21,560 lbs (9,779 kg) of gunpowder for fi rearms, and 32,340 lbs (14,669 kg) of firearm-size shot (Louis XIV 1877a:378–380). ...

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20. Swords

Jeffrey J. Kampfl

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pp. 480-498

Among La Belle’s stores and equipment were a large number of swords and sword-related artifacts. Of the “150 swords and the same numbers of sabers” requested by La Salle for his expedition to the New World (Louis XIV 1877a:379), only a small fraction of these have been discovered among the wreckage of La Belle. Seventy-one sword artifact lots were recorded and most were of the type known as a “small sword.” ...

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21. Polearms

Donald H. Keith

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pp. 499-506

Polearms, while distinctly archaic-looking to the modern eye, continue to have a long and distinguished career in the annals of weaponry in the form of the bayonet. Some authorities believe that they originated from common farming implements modified to defend against mounted armored knights (Blair 1962:21). In the English language, weapons mounted on long haft s were collectively referred to as “staves” ...

Part IV: Trade Goods

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22. Glass Beads

Timothy K. Perttula, Michael D. Glascock

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pp. 509-530

Among the more than 1.8 million artifacts found on La Belle were slightly more than 785,000 glass beads (Figure 22.1). This is one of the largest, if not the single largest, glass bead assemblages ever recovered from any underwater or terrestrial archaeological site in the New World. The assemblage provides a unique and unparalleled look at the kinds of glass beads that were available in France in the late seventeenth century, ...

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23. Iconographic (“Jesuit”) and Other Rings

Robert A. Birmingham, Carol I. Mason

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pp. 531-541

Excavation of La Belle yielded just over 1,600 elaborately embossed brass finger rings, by far the largest assemblage of these trade items ever found; 1,571 of the rings were analyzed for this study. Three other rings recovered during the excavation are brass rings with glass insets (Artifact Nos. 1874-2.1, 4420-2.1, 7049-1) and a fourth is a plain brass band (Artifact No. 7076). ...

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24. Flushloop Variety Brass Trade Bells

John M. Connaway

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pp. 542-550

Small globular bells have been used in Europe and other parts of the world for more than 2,000 years for a variety of purposes (Nichols 1937:1–4). They were attached to hawks’ legs in the sport of falconry as locational indicators and attached to the harnesses of horses and other domestic animals. Women wore them to ward off evil spirits, and dancers and jesters fastened them to their hats and clothing as attention-getters and merrymaking accoutrements. ...

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25. Straight Pins

Bradford M. Jones

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pp. 551-566

Since the 1680s the methods and materials used to manufacture straight pins have evolved, but seventeenth-century French straight pins (épingles) like those from La Belle, remain easily recognizable to a modern observer. The excavation and conservation of artifacts from La Belle resulted in the documentation of more than 17,000 brass straight pins and a single large concretion of ferrous straight pins. ...

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26. Needles

Bradford M. Jones

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pp. 567-577

The French word for needle, aiguille, encompassed a broad range of implements by the eighteenth century, including not only needles for sewing but other considerably different objects such as compass needles and artillery sights. In the Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers, Diderot and d’Alembert (1751:203) ...

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27. Trade Axes and Knives

Mark Feulner

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pp. 578-596

Various metal goods were recovered during the excavation of La Belle, either loose in the wreckage or packed in the casks or boxes in which they were placed for shipment to North America. Among the more prominent containers were four large casks filled with axes and iron-edged knives that appeared to have been intended for trade. Many of these artifacts were found largely intact and in a reasonably good state of preservation. ...

Part V. Domestic Items

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28. Ceramic Containers

Kathleen K. Gilmore, Nancy G. Reese

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pp. 599-617

The ceramics of the kind carried aboard La Belle are perhaps best described by Steponaitis (in Brain 1979:44) in his discussion of coarseware from the Tunica collection: “In supplying French ships [at La Rochelle] bound for the colonies, the most inexpensive local products . . . apparently were acquired in bulk to serve as shipping containers and to satisfy the basic need of the colonists.” ...

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29. Glass Bottles, Associated Pewter Screw Cap Closures, and Other Non-Bead Glass Artifacts

Maureen J. Brown, Nancy G. Reese, Betty J. Inman

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pp. 618-635

Glass artifacts were part of the vast quantities of cargo supplies and trade items recovered from La Belle. Excluding the glass trade beads, which are treated separately in Chapter 22, the analyzed assemblage of 1,158 glass artifacts includes case and onion bottles, sandglasses (hourglasses), pocket mirrors, apothecary vials ...

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30. Contents of Packing Box 10

Michael C. West

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pp. 636-659

Ten packing boxes or chests were recovered during the excavation of the wreck of La Belle. Most of these containers held firearms, swords, or trade goods, but one intact chest (Box 10; Artifact No. 11500) contained a diverse collection of equipment. This chest was situated laterally to the keel of the ship on the starboard side of the main hold within the southwest quadrant of unit N2016/E2010. ...

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31. Domestic Artifacts

Gregory A. Waselkov, Bonnie L. Gums, Helen Dewolf

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pp. 660-718

The artifact assemblage discussed in this chapter comprises a wide range of types thought to have functioned in domestic contexts. We have interpreted the term “domestic” loosely to include items used by the crew aboard ship, objects presumably intended for household use by the colonists upon their arrival in America, and items apparently destined for trade to Native Americans ...

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32. Footwear Assemblage

Anthony Randolph

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pp. 719-730

This chapter presents an analysis of 24 of 46 groups (52 percent) of footwear-related artifacts recovered during the excavations of La Belle.1 Cursory examination of the remainder shows that the analyzed sample represents the better preserved examples and otherwise mirrors those artifacts not analyzed. Under close examination, the artifacts revealed the components of at least nine individual shoes, ...

Part VI: Organic Remains and Specialized Analyses

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33. Human Skeletal Analysis

d. Gentry Steele, Michelle J. Raisor

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pp. 733-743

Human skeletal remains attributed to two individuals were recovered during the excavation of La Belle. Individual 1 is represented by six bones (Table 33.1) found in and near the stern of the ship. The assumption that these bones are from one individual was based on their proximity to one another and the fact that no unique bone was duplicated. ...

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34. Facial Reconstruction and DNA Analysis of Skeletal Remains

c. Wayne Smith, Ellen M. Heath, d. Andrew Merriwether, David Reed

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pp. 744-748

The nearly complete remains of a human skeleton (Individual 2), associated with a pewter porringer engraved with the name “C Barange,” and the fragmentary remains of a second (Individual 1) without associated artifacts were found on La Belle (see Chapter 33). The remains were recorded in situ and then transported to the Conservation Research Laboratory (CRL) at Texas A&M University, ...

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35. Faunal Remains

Susan D. Defrance

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pp. 749-762

From Eurasian pigs to New World bison, the well-preserved faunal remains recovered from La Belle provide an opportunity to examine the culinary and subsistence practices of a seventeenth-century French population on board a colonial vessel. The provisioning of vessels for transoceanic travel often had two goals. ...

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36. Plant Remains

Philip Dering

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pp. 763-780

The botanical assemblage from La Belle offers a material record of plant use by the occupants of the ship. It testifies to the efforts of the Europeans to adapt to the new and strange landscape of the region. At the time of the wreck, the ship’s occupants were beginning to identify and use local resources. ...

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37. Textiles

Carolyn C. Carlson

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pp. 781-787

Textiles rarely survive in the archaeological record because oxygen corrodes the component organic fibers over time. La Belle’s textiles, however, are a fortunate exception as hundreds of fragments were recovered from the wreck site. A bed of silt covered the ship shortly after its sinking in February 1686, providing an ideal anaerobic environment that slowed decomposition. ...

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38. Pigments

Megan Mekoli, Eric D. Ray, Cameron Sheya

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pp. 788-796

During excavation, a variety of pigments, collectively weighing approximately 8 kg, was recovered from La Belle’s hull (Figure 38. 1, Table 38.1). The pigments were located amidships in the main hold and in the aft hold. While the majority may represent the contents of Box 9, others were found in a variety of contexts, including Cask 10, ...

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39. Organic Contents from Storage Containers

David W. Von Endt, W. David Erhardt, Walter R. Hopwood, Harry A. Alden

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pp. 797-802

Nine artifacts recovered during the excavation of La Belle contained intact organic compounds that had the potential to reveal contents and suggest vessel function. Analysis of these compounds, in light of their associated vessel forms, indicates that these containers likely held medicinal compounds. ...

Part VII: Conclusions

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40. The Archaeology of a Seventeenth-Century Ship of New World Colonization

James E. Bruseth, Bradford M. Jones, Amy A. Borgens, Eric D. Ray

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pp. 805-829

The excavation of La Belle, conducted inside a steel cofferdam, provides immense information about the last expedition of Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. The vessel was investigated much like a terrestrial archaeological site, where a grid of 1 m × 1 m square units was laid out and excavation proceeded within each unit in 10 cm levels. Larger artifacts were also piece-plotted with a total data station. ...

Appendix 1: Ballast Stone

James E. Bruseth

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pp. 830-833

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Appendix 2: The Anchor Shank

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pp. 834-840

Amy A. Borgens, Aaron Loy

Bibliography

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pp. 841-872

Index

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pp. 873-892

Back Cover

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