The seventh season of the expedition of the RGS Underwater Research Center to investigate the German smuggling ship "Archangel Raphael", which sank in the autumn of 1724 in the Gulf of Finland, is coming to an end. The total excavation area this year exceeded 100 square meters. Underwater archaeologists have discovered many artifacts - clothing, food and household items of the 18th century European citizens.
The “Archangel Raphael” ship was discovered in the Gulf of Finland in the early 2000s. In 2014, the URC RGS began archaeological work at the site. During the six previous field seasons, the specialists cleared from silt 90 square meters of the inner space of the hull and lifted more than 250 artifacts from the vessel. Most of them have been preserved in the laboratory of the URC RGS.
So far, in the 2020 season, the weather has allowed divers to spend 13 working days in the Gulf of Finland. Diving is performed by 11 divers using different types of equipment under the supervision of the medical service of the Underwater Research Center of the Russian Geographical Society.
The season has already been marked by a serious replenishment of the collection of casual clothes from the early 18th century. Aboard the ship, the divers found a felt hat, a hat lined with patches of different fur with insulated "ears", mittens, gloves, stockings with geometric patterns, ship’s boys’ caftans, woolen pants. The shoe collection was also replenished: for the first time, a team of researchers discovered crew's home shoes. A leather slipper with an elegant felt trim at the top is left without a pair at the moment.
The items found this season will be included in the collection of European household items of the 17th century "Contraband. Three centuries under water", which has already been exhibited at the Headquarters of the Russian Geographical Society in St. Petersburg, the Central Naval Museum of the Northern Capital, Silver Treasuries in Oranienbaum, the National Centre for State Defence Control of the Russian Federation in Moscow.
In addition to wardrobe items, ancient food products were raised from the "Archangel Raphael". It is worth noting such "culinary" artifacts as peas, turnips, a weighty piece of beef ribs. These were all crew’s food items. The purpose of a keg with pickled gutted eels remains a mystery - was it cargo or part of the diet?
Underwater researchers discovered another household find confirming the thriftiness of the sailors - a bundle of cloth patches for repairing stockings, and two inner trouser pockets of the same purpose.
The members of the expedition were delighted with a landmark find - a ship's pennant made of linen fabric of rare weaving with traces of paint, with a frame for fastening.
Another find remains a mystery. Outwardly, it is a roller made of dense linen fabric, stuffed with something soft. It was thought to be a pillow, but after cleaning, traces of red wax seals were found. It was suggested that this might be a package. Its contents will only become known at the conservation workshop.
Among the main cargo were several barrels of tar. They burst and flooded all the space around them. After each dive, the researchers clean the artifacts, equipment, and themselves with alcohol.
This year, work will continue for another two weeks, with weather adjustments. In the coming year, excavations are planned to resume in the second half of the summer, with the intentions to complete the study of the interior of the ship. According to Roman Prokhorov, an employee of the Underwater Research Center of the Russian Geographical Society, underwater archaeologist, the work on the ship is nearing completion.
The expedition is implemented with the support of PJSC “Gazprom”.