Scientists have solved the mystery of the identity of a 17th-century Dutch warship carrying an exquisite Italian marble slab that was wrecked off the coast of England.
Although the wreck sank in 1672 and was discovered off the coast of Sussex in 2019, it has until now been dubbed the “unknown wreck off Eastbourne”.
However, scientists have now identified the wreck as the Dutch warship Kleinhollandia.
Built in 1656, the ship belonged to the Rotterdam Admiralty and took part in all the major battles of the Second Anglo-Dutch War between 1665 and 1667.
Over the past year, experts from Historic England, the Netherlands Agency for Cultural Heritage and the Society of Nautical Archeology have been working to identify the ship.
They used evidence collected from shipwrecks, as well as archival research and tree ring analysis of wood samples.
Experts say the wreck is in excellent condition and can provide a wealth of information about how the Dutch ship was built in the 17th century and the warship’s activities during its last voyage.
Lord Parkinson, English Heritage secretary, said the identification “gives us a glimpse into the 17th century, giving us the opportunity to learn more about the maritime history of this period and uncover treasures that have been underwater for centuries”.
Once discovered, the wreck was considered so important that it was granted the highest level of protection that same year under the Wreck Protection Act 1973.
Most of the wooden hulls, cannons, Italian marble tiles and Italian pottery are materials found on the ocean floor.
The marble tiles come from quarries in the Apuan Alps near Carrara, Italy.
These tiles were shipped to the Netherlands and used to build high status residences.
The wreck was discovered by Eastbourne dive operator David Ronan and reported to Historic England. Mr Ronnan and Mr Mark Beattie-Edwards are licensees who have been investigating the wreck.
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Mr Beatty Edwards, chief executive of the Society for Nautical Archaeology, said the ship’s cannons, cut marble tiles and pottery all suggested it was a Dutch ship returning from Italy.
“Now, after four years of investigation and research, we can confidently identify the ship.”