The ship, believed to be a Hanseatic cog from the 13th century, was found during construction work in TallinMihkel Tammet/Pen News

300 years ago, sailing ships were the primary means of transportation used to help people travel around the world and the most important goods for trade from coast to coast. A good part of the ships that sailed the waters of the Earth found themselves at the bottom of the oceans due to hostile actions or natural disasters. Only a few well-preserved ships are kept in naval museums, while most lie at the bottom of the ocean.

An interesting archaeological discovery took place during construction works in Tallinn, Estonia. As workers were digging to construct the foundations of a new building, they discovered an 80-foot-long ship believed to be a 13th-century Hanseatic cog.

The hull of the ship had been discovered almost intact and very well preserved in the ground compared to other similar ships discovered in the past. Archaeologist Mihkel Tammet did a dendrochronology test on the wood and the results show that the shipwreck dates back to 1298.

“It is constructed using solid oak logs and planks. The ship has overlapping planks sealed with animal hair and tar. We found woolen materials used for packing, we also found tools and fragments of medieval leather shoes. Excavations are ongoing and we hope to find more. This area was still under the sea in the 18th century” (Quote by Mihkel Tammet)

According to historical data, despite the strange place where the wreck was discovered, in the 18th century this place was still under water and it was not reformed until the beginning of the 20th century so that infrastructure be developed. The location itself is quite close to the Port of Tallinn. In 2008, another similar wreck was discovered just 50 meters away.

The ship was found 1.5m underground, showing that despite the ship’s age, the wreck itself may not have been as old as experts believe. Mihkel Tammet believes the ship could have fallen victim to underwater sand ridges that were difficult to map because they changed location frequently due to drifting ice and storms. There was no technology at the time to enable sailors to identify such ridges.

What is very interesting about this ship is that it has been identified as part of the Hanseatic League, a powerful trading network that stretches from England to Russia. In the 13th century, this league had arguably one of the greatest economic powers in the world when it came to trading goods and luxury goods. The ships that were part of this league were made to last for hundreds of years and withstand countless storms.

A representative from EHC Lootsi OÜ confirmed that the vessel was found on their land but provided no further comment. It is expected that construction of the new office building will be delayed for at least two months until the entire ship is dug up and carefully moved to another location. It is very interesting to see such discoveries and how long they last surprisingly. Ships of such advanced age are becoming increasingly rare.