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Rooswijk Shipwreck Excavation Summer 2018

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 at Ramsgate where visitors will be able to view artefacts excavated this year. See the exciting finds from the Rooswijk and explore the techniques and technology in use on this project. Project specialists from conservators and archaeobotanists to zooarchaeologists and material scientists will be on hand to answer questions.

Rooswijk Open Days - Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 August, Ramsgate Warehouse, Port of Ramsgate, CT11 9LG.

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. They're 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

Excavation so far

Since 2016 Dutch and British maritime archaeologists have worked together to carry out a joint investigation of the Rooswijk protected wreck site. The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and Historic England worked with an 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.

Plans for this summer

Building on the survey and excavation work done in 2016/2017, archaeologists are again 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 bring material they recover to a shore side facility in Ramsgate where they carry out first-aid conservation and record it before taking it to a Historic England storage facility. We 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 for 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

Details of open days will be published here once confirmed and advertised via social media.

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.

The project offers a real opportunity for education and capacity building especially for archaeology, conservation and maritime history students.

We're planning to hold other open days at different locations and lab tours following the end of the diving work. Please check back later or follow us on social media to stay in touch.

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


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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