The Gribshunden (“Griffen-Hound”) is the world’s best preserved example of a new type of ship that would later evolve into major well-known northern European warships such as the Mary Rose (1545), Mars (1564), Vasa (1628) and Crown (1676). It is a ship contemporary with Christopher Columbus’ flagship from 1492, the Santa Maria, though larger. The ship’s construction also has much in common with that of the well-known Catalan model, called the Mataró model, from the mid-15th century.
At a depth of nearly 10 metres, on the north side of the island of Stora Ekön outside Ronneby in Blekinge, lies a large shipwreck from the late medieval period. Given the relative shallowness of the water and the site’s long reputation as a good anchorage, locals and fishermen over the centuries have probably been aware of the existence of an old ship here on the sea floor. Still, the wreckage was discovered only in modern times around 1970 by the diving club Doppingarna from Ronneby.
For several years after the discovery, the old wooden wreck at Stora Ekön was a popular scuba-diving site. Thanks to the discovery of antique gun carriage finds, the Kalmar County Museum was commissioned by Blekinge’s County Administrative Board in the 2000s to conduct maritime archaeological investigations at the site.
Nine gun carriages were salvaged during this work, and dating of tree samples revealed that the timber was felled during the winter of 1482–83 in the north-eastern part of what is now France. In 2006, a test excavation was also conducted right in the middle of the wreckage. Although a very limited area was investigated, it yielded surprisingly large and varied finds. Among them were wooden vessels, dishware shards, glass, buttons, leather, metal, cherry pits and hazelnuts. Even brick, flint, corroded iron and slaked lime from a barrel were found.
The osteological material (bone material) that was excavated consisted mainly of cut-up cattle bones that were believed to have been packed in the remains of the vessels that were also found in the area. Crossbow arrows and remnants of a chain mail in bronze were also retrieved from the bottom. One curious finding was of a miniature gun carriage. After the objects were examined, they were exhibited at Blekinge Museum. During this fieldwork, the wreck was identified by means of written sources to be Danish King Hans’ carvel-built ship the Griffen (or Griffen-Hound), which sank in 1495 at this particular site after a fire on board the ship when it was anchored.