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Rooswijk Shipwreck Excavation Summer 2017

This summer, a team of archaeologists will dive, excavate and record the wreck site of Dutch East India Company vessel the Rooswijk.

During the excavation, there'll be open days and training sessions at Ramsgate where the finds will be brought ashore. Find out below about the opportunities to see the exciting finds from the Rooswijk and explore the techniques and technology the archaeologists are using on this project. There will also be chances to dive the wreck site, see what has been discovered and tour the diving operation vessel.

Find out more about open days, dives and courses

Stay up to date with the latest discoveries from the Rooswijk on social media using the hashtag #Rooswijk1740.

The wreck

The Rooswijk was a Dutch East India Company vessel which sank on the treacherous Goodwin Sands, off Kent, in January 1740. The ship was outward bound for Batavia (modern-day Jakarta) with trade-goods. Now a protected wreck site the ship's remains lie at a depth of some 20 metres and are owned by the Dutch Government, and managed by Historic England on behalf of the Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sport.

Anchor lying on the sea bed.
The anchor of the Rooswijk lying on the sea bed © Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed

Last year’s excavation

In 2016 Dutch and British maritime archaeologists carried out a joint project at the Rooswijk protected wreck site. The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and Historic England worked with all the archaeological dive team that partly excavated the wreck in 2005, the Licensee and the owner of the wreck's cargo to carry out a detailed survey of the wreck to find out more about the site.

Watch a video about the 2016 survey

Plans for this summer

Following on from this survey work, archaeologists will be based out on site on a diving support vessel for 90 days this summer. They'll excavate and record large areas of the site. The archaeologists will bring material they recover to a shore side facility in Ramsgate where they'll carry out first-aid conservation and record it before taking it to a Historic England storage facility. We will then assess, analyse and conserve it, before returning it to The Netherlands. We hope some material may be made available for display in the future in Ramsgate.

More about the work of the expedition team

A conservator wearing a white coat looks at archaeological material using a microscope.
A Historic England conservation lab will be based in Ramsgate this summer to provide first aid conservation to material recovered from the site

Focus on areas of the wreck site that are at risk

The wreck is classed as High Risk on the Heritage at Risk register due to its exposed remains and vulnerability. In response to these threats this project will record and assess an area of the at-risk remains of the Rooswijk, contributing to a better understanding of the wreck and establishing a way forward for the future management of the remains. In particular, the proposed investigations aim to contribute to a better understanding of the wreck and site formation processes, including the ship's design and the state of preservation.

Submerged diver wearing SCUBA gear drawing observations of a wreck on the sea bed on a white pad.
Archaeologist drawing observations at the Rooswijk wreck site © Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed

Ramsgate to benefit

The Rooswijk project will contribute to Ramsgate's Heritage Action Zone initiative by providing a focus for community pride, a sense of shared history, and a sense of belonging.

Get involved

Wrecks such as the Rooswijk are part of the shared cultural maritime heritage across Europe and it's important that cultural heritage agencies are able to work together to ensure that sites like this are protected, researched, understood and appreciated by all.

The archaeological information that can be gained from the wreck such as the Rooswijk is a unique resource. Shipwrecks are time capsules that offer a unique glimpse into the past and tell a story. Telling that story to a wide audience and engaging the public is very important to the #Rooswijk1740 project.

Open days, training opportunities and chances to dive the wreck site have all been built into the project. The project offers a real opportunity for education and capacity building especially for archaeology, conservation and maritime history students.

There will be opportunities to visit the conservation facilities throughout the course of the project.

A coloured map showing the seabed surface
High resolution Multibeam survey of the Rooswijk © MSDS Marine


Alison James

Maritime Archaeologist

Alison James has worked as a maritime archaeologist at Historic England since 2008. She is responsible for the management and licencing of sites protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, including the Rooswijk.

Angela Middleton

Archaeological Conservator

Angela Middleton has been working as an Archaeological Conservator for Historic England since 2007. Here she is responsible for advice, research and investigative conservation on material retrieved from land and marine sites. She has a special interest in the conservation of waterlogged organic materials, such as wood and leather. 

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