In 1995, underwater archaeologists discovered the wreck of the earliest and most important French ship yet found in the Western hemisphere: La Salle's La Belle. For the next two years, a team of archaeologists and volunteers led by James E. Bruseth and sponsored by the Texas Historical Commission uncovered the ship's remains. Amid the shallow waters of Matagorda Bay, one of the most complex steel cofferdams ever constructed was built around the site, allowing the archaeologists to excavate the sunken wreck much as if it were located on dry land. The ship’s hold was discovered full of everything the would-be colonists would need to establish themselves in the New World; more than 1.6 milion artifacts were extracted from the site.
More than two decades in the making due to the immensity of the find and the complexity of cataloging and conserving the artifacts, this book thoroughly documents one of the most significant North American archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century.