A Recovered Stoneware Jug
For most people, the idea of “buried treasure” conjures up images of swashbuckling pirates and treasure chests filled with gold coins and jewels. But for Charles Fithian, curator of archaeology for Delaware’s museums, and Daniel Griffith, director of the Lewes Maritime Archaeological Project, the term refers to any item that can help them unlock the secrets of the past — even something as simple as a plate or a spoon.
Join Fithian and Griffith on Thursday, August 17, at 7:00 p.m., at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus of the University of Delaware’s College of Marine and Earth Studies in Lewes, when they discuss the recently discovered Roosevelt Inlet Shipwreck and its buried treasure. Their lecture, “Archaeology of an 18th Century British Commercial Vessel,” is part of the college’s annual Ocean Currents Lecture Series, which is held on the third Thursday of each month, from April through September.
The Roosevelt Inlet Shipwreck is a wooden-hulled, commercial sailing ship that lies embedded in the sands of the inlet, submerged under 12 to 15 feet of water. The shipwreck was discovered in October 2004 when a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredge began pumping sand from the inlet bottom for a beach-replenishment project and truncated the south side of the wreck site.
Artifacts from the shipwreck — including glass shards, ceramic fragments, bottles, shoe buckles, rifle trigger guards, tobacco pipes, plates, spoons, military miniatures, wide-mouth storage jars, and pieces of chamber pots — were pumped ashore along with 165,000 cubic yards of sand. According to Griffith, nearly 40,000 artifacts from the shipwreck have been recovered and are in the state collection.
“An analysis of these artifacts leads us to believe that the vessel was lost sometime during the period from 1769 to 1775,” says Griffith. “In addition, even though its name is still unknown, the shipwreck has been determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.”
He adds that future archaeological investigations of the shipwreck will most likely provide information about merchant vessels and their cargo, especially as they relate to trans-Atlantic maritime trade between northern Europe and the American colonies in the Atlantic world of the third quarter of the 18th century.
Prior to becoming the state of Delaware’s archaeologist, Fithian was staff archaeologist for St. Mary City, Maryland, where he worked on unearthing much of the historic data for that 17th century town. He has been with Delaware’s museums for the past 18 years and has focused on Delaware’s colonial history. Fithian also was involved with the raising of the British vessel DeBraak, which was discovered off the coast of Delaware in 1984.
Griffith retired as director of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs in March 2005, a position he held for 16 years. Under his leadership, the division helped secure land, buildings, and preservation easements critical to maintaining the historic integrity and natural beauty of sites such as Gibraltar in Wilmington, Buena Vista in New Castle, Cooch-Dayett Mills in Newark, and the Breakwater Lighthouse in Lewes.
The lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Room 104, Cannon Laboratory, at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes. The hour-long talk will be followed by light refreshments.
While the lecture is free and open to the public, seating is limited and reservations are required. To reserve your seat, please contact the college at (302) 645-4279.