The Osmund wreck – a new piece of the puzzle in history
03 June 2020 10:06
Photo: Jim Hansson
A well-preserved shipwreck from the time of King Gustav Vasa was discovered two years ago by divers in Stockholm’s central archipelago. The ship, built using an ancient shipbuilding method, rests heavily on the seafloor thanks to its unique cargo of so-called osmond iron. Following the recently completed museum dives and samplings of the so-called Osmund wreck, we now hope to provide new insights into iron trade and Swedish history.
The ship, located at a depth of 30 metres in Stockholm’s central archipelago, caused quite a stir when it was discovered two years ago. One of the masts, the mainmast of the well-preserved wreck, is still in place and points up toward the surface. The museum’s maritime archaeologists examined the wreck recently and found what was likely a third mast and cargo containing as many as 50 barrels of osmond iron, a startling discovery. In the past, only a few osmond finds have been uncovered.
An old ship carrying unique cargo
A few wrecks carrying osmond iron have been found in the Baltic Sea, and the Osmund wreck is the first in Swedish waters. Although the ship has medieval Nordic features, it is probably from the first half of the 16th century and is thought to be a hulk-type ship. “Hulk” was a term for the biggest merchant ships that also competed with cogs for a period of time. Tools and kitchen utensils have been found on board. Among other objects, a large copper pot still remains on the masonry stove.
“Never before has so much of this significant osmond iron been found in one location in Sweden,” says Jim Hansson, one of the maritime archaeologists from Vrak – Museum of Wrecks who is currently investigating the Osmund wreck.
An investigation that visualises the wreck
In addition to the barrels of osmond iron, samples have been taken of the contents of other barrels with unknown contents. The maritime archaeologists painstakingly filmed the ship, and now a three-dimensional image of the wreck has been created for display in the new Museum of Wrecks.
They have also taken samples to determine the age of the hull, with the hope of understanding when and where the ship was built. The wooden barrels containing the osmond iron have already been examined – they are from the 1540s and the wood was from trees that grew in the Baltic states.
Scientists expect that the results will lead to the rewriting of Sweden’s iron history. Hopefully, the study will help us find out what the ships sailing with osmond iron looked like, and which ports in Europe this mythical currency bar was exported to.
The study will form the basis for a major study planned for 2021 in an international collaboration with Polish and German maritime archaeologists and researchers.
The dives have been possible thanks to the support of the Prytziska Fund at Jernkontoret, the Swedish steel producers’ association. The Museum of Wrecks collaborates with Jernkontoret and the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Stockholm University.
More about the Osmund wreck
Shipwreck looting a growing concern
Last year, maritime archaeologists from the museum discovered that the Osmund wreck had been looted. They are concerned over the increasing number of wrecks being looted in the Baltic Sea.